CDC Study Points to Link Between COVID-19 and the Onset of Diabetes in Children
It’s already been established that those living with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes face increased risk for COVID-19 related complications. Having diabetes, as well as other medical conditions, such as heart disease or asthma, increases the risk of an acute response to the virus that can lead to extreme illness and even the need for hospitalization.
There has also been evidence that in some cases contracting the COVID-19 virus can actually contribute to the development of diabetes. Studies supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest that the virus can infect and impact human beta cells, necessary for producing insulin which is how the body processes and regulates blood sugar. This link between COVID-19 and the damage to beta cells points to a connection between the virus and the risk of developing diabetes.
New CDC report reveals a COVID-19/Diabetes link in children
On January 7, 2021 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report that reveals children and teens under the age of 18 who have contracted the coronavirus are substantially more likely to develop both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes than young people who are able to avoid contracting the virus.
How the CDC compiled the study
This was a monumental report that examined millions of medical/healthcare insurance claims compiled by medical data and analytics companies IQVIA and HealthVerity between March 2020 and June 2021. All in all, the records of approximately 2.6 million children were part of the study and the results were rather astonishing. Here’s the breakdown.
IQVIA data sample - roughly 1.7 million children
According to healthcare records data gathered by IQVIA, children who became infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus were 166% more likely to also be diagnosed with diabetes within 30 days after infection than kids who had not contracted the coronavirus. Additionally, children with COVID infections were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than kids who dealt with non-COVID-related respiratory infections.
HealthVerity data sample - roughly 900,000 children
Following suit with IQVIA data, the report states that the children’s health insurance records examined by HealthVerity showed a 31% increase in likelihood that children who caught COVID-19 would go on to develop diabetes than those who did not become infected.
What does it all mean?
The report presents clear evidence that children who have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus are at greater risk of developing diabetes. In fact, in a New York Times article reporting on the CDC study, one of the study’s authors, Dr. Sharon Saydah, states, “Even a 30% increase (HealthVerity numbers) is a big increase in risk.”
Dr. Saydah goes on to make another important observation. It remains to be seen whether the increase in Type 2 diabetes associated with the study will be a lasting or chronic issue, or if the diabetes will dissipate on its own over time. The CDC study only accounted for about 4.5 months of monitoring, so whether or not we can truly expect a wave of new, long-term childhood diabetes cases is yet to be determined.
What we do know
The CDC reported record numbers of pediatric hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19 during the week the study was released, as the omicron variant continues to sweep across the nation. This includes a large number of hospitalizations for children ages 4 years and younger who are not yet eligible for any of the approved COVID-19 vaccines.
This increase in pediatric hospitalizations may be due in some part to the fact that the new variant is both more transmissible than previous variants, and because omicron tends to attack the upper airway system, where children are particularly vulnerable for complications.
What you can do
First and foremost, if you’re a parent the CDC said that these recent findings shine a light on the importance of getting all your eligible children vaccinated. Currently, kids ages 5 years and older can receive their vaccinations. It’s also important that you surround kids with vaccinated adults. While not a full-proof measure against contracting COVID-19, vaccinated adults are less likely to transmit the virus. Finally, it’s vitally important for parents to take CDC recommended precautions to protect those vulnerable children who are too young to be vaccinated. Masking up and social distancing remain very effective ways to avoid the COVID-19 virus.
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