In early 2020, it seemed like people with diabetes were disproportionately dying with COVID-19, but the data provided more questions than answers. What type of diabetes did people have? Were people dying because the condition itself put them at greater risk, or because those with it tend to be older and have other illnesses? And what should people with diabetes do to protect themselves?
Now, researchers are harnessing data from NHS England to address these questions – and some of their findings are unexpected.
It is still unclear whether people with diabetes are more likely to catch the virus. We won’t know if this is true until sustained, widespread testing is rolled out. But we do know that a disproportionate number of people with the condition have been hospitalised with COVID-19. In the UK, data spanning February to April shows people with diabetes made up approximately 25% of hospitalised cases; that’s almost four times higher than the estimated rate of diabetes in the general population.
Once in hospital with COVID-19, data also shows that people with diabetes have worse outcomes than people without. The increase in risk is striking but isn’t necessarily surprising – people with diabetes are prone to worse outcomes from infections generally, as data from flu shows.
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