People living with diabetes are not more likely to catch the novel coronavirus, but the virus can cause more severe symptoms and complications in diabetics, a Turkish medical expert said on World Diabetes Day.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, diabetics are affected differently and more severely than the general population, which is closely related to blood glucose control. If glucose levels are poor, not only COVID-19, but all infectious diseases will cause severe symptoms with a slow recovery speed,” Prof. Dr. Hasan Ilkova, head of the Turkish Diabetes Association, told Anadolu Agency.

Ilkova, who is also an academic at Istanbul University Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty, stressed that the course of COVID-19 will not be different in diabetics with good glucose levels.

Highlighting the importance of the blood test for HbA1c, Ilkova said values of more than 7% measurement carry an increased risk of long-term complications.

He advised diabetics to adjust their glucose levels in consultation with their doctors without causing low sugar during the pandemic.

Underlining that diabetics should not be extra worried about catching the virus if they manage the disease well, he said they have to abide by the general hygiene rules to curb the spread of the virus.

“They should keep in mind that they must strictly adhere to mask, social distance and hand washing warnings in order to minimize the risk of contamination,” he added.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has claimed more than 1.3 million lives in 191 countries and regions since first being detected in Wuhan, China in December.

The US, India and Brazil are currently the worst-hit countries.

Over 52.41 million cases have been reported worldwide, with recoveries exceeding 34.47 million, according to figures compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

Diabetes nurses play important role

To mark World Diabetes Day, Ilkova said various activities have been organized by non-governmental organizations on diabetes in several countries which are members of the International Diabetes Federation.

Reminding that this year’s theme is “The Nurse and Diabetes,” he said as the number of people living with diabetes continues to rise across the world, the role of nurses and other healthcare personnel becomes increasingly important in managing the disease.

“People living with diabetes need support to understand how to live with diabetes and to manage their diabetes. In this regard, diabetes nurses play an important role in supporting the patients psychologically and educating them on the correct diabetes management,” he added.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

Around 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, the majority living in low-and middle-income countries, and 1.6 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year, the WHO said.

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