Covid-19 and diabetes

Source: Covid-19 and diabetes | The Herald

Covid-19 and diabetes

Roselyne Sachiti
Features, Health and Society Editor
Diabetic people are at higher risk of getting severe Covid-19 and should take all precautionary measures as the third wave hits African countries.

In Zimbabwe, diabetes is ranked among some of the non-communicable diseases that include heart and high blood pressure that are affecting people in larger proportions.

Estimates point to 10 in every 100 people having diabetes.

The Zimbabwe Diabetic Association (ZDA) estimates that 1.4 million Zimbabweans or about 10 percent of the people have diabetes.

With the Covid-19 third wave sweeping across Africa, diabetics have felt the wrath of the novel virus.

According to News 24, a recent study from the University Of Cape Town (UCT) confirmed that people living with diabetes (PLWD) are at an increased risk of severe Covid-19 (hospitalisation and mortality). The findings are published in the Journal for Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.

“The researchers used data from the first wave of the pandemic in the Western Cape, from March last year (when the first case was identified) to Wednesday 15 July last year, when infection rates had dropped. During this time period, 64 476 people were diagnosed with Covid-19, of which 9 305 were PLWD.”

News 24 further says according to the report, in the Covid-19 patients with diabetes, 44,9 percent were hospitalised, 4,0 percent were admitted to ICU, 0,6 percent received ventilation and 15,4 percent died; whereas in the Covid-19 patients without diabetes 12,2 percent were hospitalised, 1,0 percent were admitted, 0,1 percent were ventilated and 4,6 percent died.

Responding to questions during a World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Science in 5 series, Dr Gojka Roglic said diabetes has been increasingly common in the past 30 years and there are now more than 400 million people living with diabetes in the world.

“Unfortunately, about one half of them do not know they have diabetes. They have not been diagnosed. And of those who are diagnosed, many do not have access to medicines nor health services that they need,” she said.


She said the pandemic has shown that people with diabetes are at higher risk than people without diabetes of having a severe illness of COVID and also dying of COVID.

“The two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Type 2 is much more common. Type 1 seems to also have a higher risk than type 2 of a severe COVID illness and death,” said Dr Roglic.


She said the pandemic and the measures to contain it are quite a challenge for people with diabetes.

“The mainstone in treatment is physical activity and a healthy diet, and that might not be possible in the pandemic conditions. The people with diabetes have to be creative about how to manage to continue the recommended physical activity and a healthy diet within the constraints posed by the pandemic,” added Dr Roglic.


She also explained the health system has to ensure that people get their medication regularly.


“Given that people with diabetes are considered a vulnerable group because of the higher risk of severe disease and a higher risk of death than people without diabetes, we strongly recommend all the measures for containing the pandemic and for protecting ourselves as individuals, such as hand washing, wearing masks, ventilating indoor habitats, socializing with people preferably outdoors whenever possible, and keeping the safe physical distance.”


She also said vaccination is recommended for people with diabetes as a priority group for vaccinating.

“Vaccinations are encouraged and they have been proven to be safe and effective,” she said.