image of a monitor with COVID-19 corona virus

Aside from the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the most widely-reported and potentially momentous story of the moment is the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, a respiratory pathogen that has already infected at least 100,000 people around the globe and killed at least 4,500.

At least 8 states around the U.S. have declared an official state of emergency, the entire nation of Italy is on lockdown, and the infection does not appear to be contained.

But what, exactly, is the virus, and how should people with type 1 diabetes prepare themselves and their families to deal with it?

First, it’s important to define and understand what COVID-19 is – there’s already a fair amount of misinformation and fuzzy language being used. In brief, it’s a new strain of coronavirus, a family of viruses that includes a wide range of different strains, including some that cause the common cold. The 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) outbreak represents a previous strain of the pathogen, and the novel coronavirus outbreak that began in 2019 is the latest such wave of infections, though the two viruses are not directly related.

A number of resources have been created, shared, and distributed to help people deal with the outbreak worldwide, and as a population living with inherently compromised immune systems, people with type 1 need to take special care. Falling ill generally raises blood sugars and taxes the body more heavily in people with diabetes – so what can we do to prevent it?

First off, it’s important to understand that all the precautions for otherwise healthy people still apply for people with type 1 diabetes – perhaps more so. That means:

  • Regular and sustained handwashing – whenever you use the restroom, eat, or use a public place – for at least 20 seconds or more. Try singing the chorus from Africa’s Toto or the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive, which are just about the right length.
  • Sanitize frequently used technology, devices, and appliances regularly – your phone and laptop keyboard can be strong vectors for infection if ignored.
  • Minimize unnecessary travel or gathering in large public spaces if at all possible – if there was ever a time to work from home, reschedule that trip or use delivery services, now is the time.

In addition to these basic recommendations, there are some specific measures that people with type 1 diabetes ought to take, including making sure all prescriptions are filled and up to date (by mail, if possible), getting a flu shot, speaking with your doctor and pharmacist about filling backup prescriptions, and more.

Over at Healthline’s DiabetesMine vertical, writer and type 1 advocate Christine Fallabel has compiled a fantastic resource on how to handle the spreading coronavirus epidemic as a person living with diabetes.

Everything You Should Know About Coronavirus and Diabetes

The global threat of coronavirus is looming larger every day, with news of additional cases and deaths, travel advisories, and potential economic fallout. The media keeps reporting that people with “underlying health conditions are at particularly high risk — and diabetes is at the top of the list.

– Christine Fallabel, DiabetesMine