People with diabetes are suffering from COVID-19 at a disproportionate and alarming rate.
30 to 40 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths have taken the lives of diabetic people — only nursing home residents and older people have been hit harder by the virus.
Recent studies show that people with diabetes hospitalized due to COVID-19 spend more time in the I.C.U, have a higher chance of being intubated, and are less likely to survive their infection. More data found that patients who recovered from COVID-19 were at a 40 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes within 12 months compared to those not infected.
“It’s hard to overstate just how devastating the pandemic has been for Americans with diabetes,” Dr. Giuseppina Imperatore of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told New York Times.
People with diabetes are especially vulnerable to developing severe illnesses from COVID-19 because of their weakened immune systems. Oftentimes, they struggle with other underlying conditions that can worsen an infection.
Husband and wife David and Debrah Donner both tested positive for COVID-19, but David, a diabetic, experienced the brunt of the symptoms and was left in a wheelchair.
“The virus barely slowed her down, but I ended up surrounded by nurses in hazmat suits,” Donner said. “I walk 20 feet and I’m huffing and puffing like I ran 20 miles.”
Diabetes plagues 34 million Americans and takes 100,000 lives yearly, yet the disease draws less funding and public attention than cancer, Alzheimer's, and heart disease.
Just like the pandemic itself, the racial disparities in diabetes are evident. Black and Latino Americans are more than twice as likely to receive a diabetes diagnosis as their white counterparts, and limited access to proper medical care makes it difficult for communities of color to keep up with the dietary restrictions and monitoring of blood sugar levels required to control the disease.
With COVID-19 and diabetes undeniably linked, experts say the pandemic has continued to highlight systemic failures in the American health care system.
Dr. David Kerr, director of research and innovation at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, said in a statement, “Diabetes is a wicked problem and Covid has just shone a bright light on this crisis.”