Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – “Diabetes does not increase the risk of a person contracting COVID-19, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hazel Laws. She said that according to an article published in The Lancet on July 17, “Patients over 60 with COVID-19 and uncontrolled diabetes have a poorer outcome.”

Dr. Laws told a press briefing at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) the article was entitled “COVID-19 in people with diabetes: understanding the reasons for worse outcomes.”

“Diabetes is known to confer increased risk for infections-respiratory tract infections,” said Dr. Laws. “Diabetics in general have an increased risk of infection in previous outbreaks of SARS, MERS, and HH1N1 Influenza. However, this does not seem to be the case for COVID-19.

“They are finding out that diabetes does not really increase the risk of you picking up or contracting COVID-19,” she said. “Diabetes is however more frequent in patients with COVID-19. In other words, if you contract COVID-19 and have diabetes, the risk of you developing the severe form of COVID-19 is increased.”

The Chief Medical Officer reaffirmed that the disease does not increase the risk of picking up COVID-19; however, if a person is a diabetic and contracts the virus, the chance of developing the severe form of the virus, requiring hospitalization, is increased.

Dr. Laws stated that data from two hospitals in Wuhan involving 1,561 patients with COVID-19, showed that those with diabetes (DM) were more likely to require admission to ICU or to die. Also, data from a British cohort of 5,693 in hospital patients with COVID-19 showed the risk of death was more common in those with uncontrolled diabetes (DM).

“Patients with COVID-19 and diabetes have a worse prognosis,” said Dr. Laws. “This is probably because of the concurring effects of multiple factors like age, poor blood sugar control and the presence of other chronic conditions. “If you have COVID-19 and diabetes and you are over 60, your outcome will be poorer.”

If a persons has COVID-19, diabetes and their blood sugar values are not controlled, their outcome would be poorer, said Dr. Laws. “Poor glycaemic or poor control of your sugar values before hospital admission and during your hospital stay will worsen your outcome if you do get COVID-19. If you are diabetic it is very important that you control your blood sugar values.

“That’s the biggest takeaway message,” she said. “If you have diabetes in the context of COVID-19, the most important thing you need to do is to get a handle of your blood sugar values.”

“Patients with COVID-19 and diabetes have a greater prevalence of other chronic illnesses like heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease,” said Dr. Laws.

She recommended that persons who have diabetes should maintain good glycaemic control –monitor their blood sugar values and take their blood sugar medication as prescribed. If they have other chronic medical conditions like hypertension, heart disease, or kidney disease, they should be compliant with their prescribed medication.

“Diabetics should also adhere to their prescribed diet of fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly,” said Dr. Laws. “They should boost their immune system by getting adequate rest, keeping well hydrated, getting adequate sunlight, and taking their multivitamins/supplements.

“If a person is living with diabetes, they must protect themselves from the new coronavirus by wearing a facemask when in public spaces, practicing good hand hygiene, physical distancing and social distancing,” cautioned Dr. Laws.