TRUE: DIABETES PATIENTS ARE VULNERABLE TO COVID-19
Written by Celine Abuga & Odhiambo Shem on November 17, 2021
Early studies have shown that about 25% of people who went to the hospital with severe COVID-19 infections had diabetes. Those with diabetes were more likely to have serious complications and to die from the virus. One reason is that high blood sugar weakens the immune system and makes it less able to fight off infections.
A recent World Health organization (WHO) analysis evaluated data from 13 countries on underlying conditions or comorbidities in Africans who tested positive for COVID-19. It revealed a 10.2% case fatality rate in patients with diabetes, compared with 2.5% for COVID-19 patients overall. The case fatality rate for people with diabetes was also twice as high as the fatality rate among patients suffering any comorbidity. In addition to people with diabetes, the three most frequent underlying conditions included patients with HIV and hypertension.
The countries contributing data to the analysis were Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Guinea, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe and Uganda.
An estimated 24 million people are living with diabetes in Africa in 2021 according to the International Diabetes Federation and the continent is expected to experience the highest increase in diabetes globally, with the number of Africans suffering from the disease predicted to rise to 55 million by 2045, an increase of 134% compared with 2021. Africa is the region with the highest number of people who do not know their diagnosis – an estimated 70% of people with diabetes do not know they have the disease.
The data from Africa on the increased vulnerability of people with diabetes to death from COVID-19 reflects a global trend: A Reuters investigation this year reported that the pandemic has revealed that the United States has been losing its public health battle against diabetes for more than a decade.
Since the early days of the pandemic, people with diabetes in countries around the world have been prioritized to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Africa has faced challenges in this strategy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to diabetes care has been severely disrupted in the African Region. Lockdowns to limit the spread of COVID-19, for example, have impeded access to health care and the basic elements of proper disease management, such as routine glucose monitoring and eating a healthy diet.
This message is brought to you by sky FM in collaboration with Code for Africa’s ilab for Data Journalism program supported by DW Akademie.