Coronavirus and type 1 diabetes – what you should know

WRITTEN BY: Julia Flaherty

Editor’s Note: This content has been verified by Anne Peters, MD. She is a professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and the Director of the USC Clinical Diabetes Programs. She runs diabetes centers in Beverly Hills and in underserved East Los Angeles. In addition, she serves on the Beyond Type 1 Science Advisory Committee.

For anyone, with or without Type 1 diabetes, the first thing you should know concerning any flu or virus outbreak is not to panic. The best thing you can do for your health and mental state is to become informed so that you can be proactive in preventing any sickness. With news of the latest outbreak of coronavirus infecting over 79,000 people and the death toll currently topping 2,600, many are seeking out more information on the threat to the general public.

For perspective, the biggest risk is the flu – over 30,000,000 people in the United States have had the flu this year and over 12,000 people have died from it. Therefore, be sure to have gotten the flu shot and see your health care provider if you think you might have the flu, so they can test you for it and give you medication to treat it if you have it.

While social media is a great tool, it can also be counterproductive when it comes to our anxieties and health. It’s best to read each story about the coronavirus with a grain of salt. Be a curious and informed reader. Awareness is a good thing, but it should not cause unnecessary stress in your life. There is peace of mind with facts.

Experts are experts for a reason. Know what sources are viable and trustworthy, such as the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. It is always best not to make assumptions and rely on experts for updates and advisories.

A proper introduction

The common coronavirus is identified by Harvard Health as:

“…an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections. These viruses are zoonoses, which means they can infect certain animals and spread from one animal to another. A coronavirus can potentially spread to humans, particularly if certain mutations in the virus occur.”

The current outbreak of coronavirus is a new form, named the novel coronavirus of 2019 (2019-nCoV), is a specific respiratory virus first identified in the Wuhan Hubei Province, China. Current symptoms for patients with this strain include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

The strain likely emerged from an animal but is now being spread from human-to-human. Evidence suggests 2019-nCoV emerged from a virus related to SARS (another form of coronavirus), according to the CDC, but this has not been confirmed and investigations are ongoing.

The CDC explains that patients with novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) “will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.”

Since Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, you may feel especially concerned, and this is understandable. People with T1D, especially those with higher blood sugar levels, are at higher risk for contracting a variety of infectious diseases, which it is why it is important to get recommended vaccinations. When people with T1D develop an illness it can be harder to treat because of fluctuations of glucose levels and the presence of other complications. If someone with T1D becomes ill it is particularly important to go to the doctor to get a diagnosis so it can be treated (for reference, there are 4 different oral medications available for treating the flu). If someone with T1D is unable to keep down fluids, they should seek medical attention so they can receive intravenous fluids to keep safe.

Harvard Health reassures the public that, “Unless you’ve been in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus — which right now, typically means a traveler from Wuhan, China who actually has the virus — you’re likely to be safe.”

While it’s important to be mindful of your health and the environment you’re in, you needn’t fear so long as you’re equipped with the proper tools and knowledge to guide your daily health and wellbeing.

As a person with Type 1 diabetes, health is a moment-to-moment consideration, but you don’t need to fear more than anyone else. Take a deep breath, and equip yourself with the tools you use best in your daily management – preventative treatment and routine therapy. In the case of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization advises the public to use similar health practices that you would use to prevent most common flus or colds, though it is a different strain than the common cold, and there are special considerations for recent travelers from China.

A few helpful tips

The World Health Organization recommends the following to manage your health proactively and ward off any respiratory system threats:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough
  • If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

Practicing food safety and excellent sanitation while traveling are of course top considerations. The Center for Disease Control has stated that it is screening any travelers from China to other countries who might’ve been exposed to the virus to keep it from spreading. Scientists are working hard to keep the public healthy and to contain the coronavirus’ effects.

The World Health Organization reassures the public that:

“Given the current spread of this virus and the pace and complexity of international travel, the number of cases and deaths will likely to continue to climb. We should not panic, even though we are dealing with a serious and novel pathogen.”

The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control, have made commitments to the public to be transparent and informative throughout outbreaks like the coronavirus.

To keep up with coronavirus updates and resources, follow this page from the CDC.

Be well, don’t panic, and stay T1D-strong – your health has always been a number one priority throughout the lifetime of your disease, and so long as you manage, we are confident in positive outcomes for your health and wellbeing.



Thank you for the post.