According to most recent data on the COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, those suffering from heart conditions, diabetes and other chronic medical conditions are more likely to have a worse prognosis should they contract the disease than those without such pre-existing medical conditions.
Although more research is needed to confirm this link, so far, statistics suggest that the virus impacts those who are most vulnerable healthwise, such as the elderly and people with pre-existing health problems. For example, the first Hong Kong resident to die from the virus was 39 years old and had diabetes, while the second being 70 years old, also with diabetes and other medical problems such as high blood pressure and kidney disease.
Juliana Chan, director of the Hong Kong Institute of Diabetes and Obesity said, “I don't think it's an overstatement to say that people with diabetes...are at higher risk of developing COVID-19, because the data are suggestive...Our message is to ask people with diabetes to do things early in order to protect themselves and reduce their risk of having problems if anything happens.”
Although exactly how diabetes may increase a person’s susceptibility to developing complications from COVID-19 is unknown, research so far suggests that this may be the case as higher blood glucose levels reduce overall immune system functioning, thus increasing disease susceptibility.
Until now however, among all age groups, the highest overall case fatality rate (CFR) has been among those aged 80 and older at 14.8%, with the majority of these deaths also being compounded by other medical conditions. For example, those catching the virus with pre-existing cardiovascular disease have a case fatality rate of 10.5%, while the same figure stands at 7.3% for those with diabetes, and just 0.9% for those without any prior medical condition.
Preeti N. Malani, Chief Health Officer at the University of Michigan medical School said, “In general, diabetes can be a marker of other chronic health conditions like heart disease as well as obesity, which might contribute to the increased risk of infection...Diabetes is also much more common with age and will continue to be a marker of poor outcomes for [all of] these reasons.”