Many people are concerned about their risk for contracting this novel coronavirus, COVID-19. And for good reason.
For people with diabetes, we are being consistently told we are high-risk. Questions are flying around the internet with people trying to comprehend just how “high-risk” they are, given their specific type of chronic illness.
While everyone (globally) is still assessing the life cycle and repercussions of COVID-19, we do have some early data to help us assess individual risk with this novel coronavirus for people with diabetes.
How to Assess Individual Diabetes Risk for COVID-19
As of March 2020, we have 3 particularly important pieces of information, gathered from preliminary studies (not yet peer-reviewed) based on the patient and comorbidity rate of people in China with COVID-19:
- Death rates by age groups
- Death rates by comorbidity
- Hazard ratio for 1 or 2 comorbidities that is a ratio of risk for hospitalization, ventilation, and/or death
To date (March 18, 2020), these are some of the most comprehensive studies we have -- globally -- from the source of first impact.
The key piece of information in assessing your personal risk is the hazard ratio.
While we still need more (and better) data surrounding COVID-19, we can use the available data (especially the hazard ratio for a severe case based on number/type of comorbidity) to better understand individual risk.
Why Is Hazard Ratio Important?
The hazard ratio provides us with a broader piece of information about the risk of a severe case or outcome due to coronavirus. While this particular hazard ratio is only the first (and will be adjusted over time based on the more COVID-19 data received), it gives us an applicable approximation for now.
To assess individual risk of a severe outcome with COVID-19, look at:
- Age group risk of death, originally determined in this previous study
- Hazard ratio according to comorbidity/(ies), located at the bottom of the page
Take your age group risk of death (#1) -- which you can find here in the Chinese CDC’s initial coronavirus report from February 2020, in the Case Fatality Rate column in Table 1 -- and multiply it by the hazard ratio according to your comorbidity -- none, one, or multiple (#2).
Here is my personal example.
At age 30, I fall in the 30-39 age bracket, which has a 0.2% mortality rate. Then, I multiply mortality rate by hazard ratio for 1 comorbidity, which is (specifically) diabetes.
Based on Figure 1 at the end of this study, that hazard ratio is 1.59%.
Consequently, 0.2% x 1.59% is 0.3%. Therefore, my risk of having severe complications due to COVID-19 is 0.3%.
Not too bad. Not bad at all, really, when considering the hazard ratio for people in my same age group (with no comorbidities) is 0.2% (see Table 1, Case Fatality Rate here).
What Does My Coronavirus Risk Assessment Mean?
Technically, all of us with diabetes (type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes) are high-risk at this time. We can contract COVID-19 just easily as someone else who gets it, or someone else who doesn’t.
But it’s not just about us right now. Maybe you have a higher risk-assessment, maybe yours is lower. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, the best and easiest way to stop this thing in its tracks (and from harming any of us) is to give our healthcare systems room to breathe.
Up to 70% of the United States’ population could eventually contract COVID-19.
While the majority of those cases would, likely, not result in severe complications, overrun hospitals and healthcare workers could turn mild cases (think: flu, pneumonia) into severe ones, due to an overwhelmed healthcare system.
Regardless of your risk assessment for COVID-19, it’s vital that we support each other right now. This is about saving us all! And we can do it very easily:
🚑Only go to hospital if you need admitting
🚫🎪Don’t gather in groups larger than 10
🧍↔️🧍 Practice social distancing
🚫🤦♂️Don’t touch your face
🧼💦👏Wash hands often
🌳🏡🛋Stay at home
These are small, but infinitely powerful steps all of us can take to keep this virus from spreading (if you’re into math, you can see the full logic here). It truly is that simple! And things all of us can do.
While you’re busy implementing these marvelous societal practices to curb the pandemic, be sure to enjoy things like:
- Watching Edward and Annie roam the Shedd Aquarium
- Live streaming a concert
- Binging Broadway shows for free
- Learning about anything you’ve ever wanted to from over 1,500 free online courses
- Attending a virtual Happy Hour with your coworkers
- Deep-diving into this COVID-19 Mutual Aid & Advocacy Resource Pack
- Playing with your dog, hiking with your dog, petting your dog, looking at your dog
- Learning the science of well-being for free, from Yale
- Taking a virtual tour of your favorite museum
- Joining Chef José Andrés and his kitchens by helping to feed those in need
- Working out. Everyday. From the comfort of your home
Most importantly, if you have diabetes during this COVID-19 outbreak, do not be worried. Be smart.
Regardless of personal risk level of a severe case, we should all be protecting each other by helping cut down and reduce transmission.
If we can bide time for those that need it (those that do contract a severe COVID-19 case and need hospital care) by staying at home, the more lives we will save. This is a shared responsibility. We can stop this coronavirus in its tracks, reduce our personal diabetes risk, and give our healthcare system the time it needs to catch up.
Be smart. Stay vigilant. Help others.