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20 May 2020

NHS ‘reassures’ people with diabetes amid COVID-19

England’s top diabetes and obesity advisor has provided reassurance to people with diabetes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes as two new research studies have shown that those living with diabetes face a significantly higher risk of dying from the virus, with a third of deaths in England associated with the condition.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, who led the studies which looked at the impact of type 1 and type 2 diabetes among those with COVID-19, said: “We would like to reassure people that the NHS is here for anyone with concerns about diabetes.”

He found the mortality risk is three-and-a-half times greater among those with type 1 and people living with type 2 are at double the risk of dying in hospital with the virus, compared to people without diabetes.

However, by far the strongest risk factor for dying with the virus is age, and people with type 1 diabetes are on average younger than people with type 2 diabetes.

Professor Valabhji added: “This research shows the extent of the risk of COVID-19 for people with diabetes and the different risks for those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

“Importantly, it also shows that higher blood glucose levels and obesity further increase the risk in both types of diabetes.”

Overall, 7,466 of those who died in hospitals in England had type 2 and 365 who died had type 1 diabetes, and the research suggests that the threat for those under 40 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes is very low, with no recorded deaths in those under 20.

It is thought that the risk to people with diabetes and the virus is in line with the extra risk seen in other infectious conditions such as pneumonia.

The study also shows that in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, even when all other known factors are taken into account, higher blood glucose levels and obesity are linked to higher risk.

Understandably, these figures have worried many people who have the condition or care for someone who has it, so the NHS has set up a dedicated helpline to help those who need help with insulin.

In addition to the helpline, a series of online sites to support people with diabetes have also been set up.

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