COVID-19 A ‘Double Whammy’ For At-Risk People With Existing Health Conditions

Sherina Harris
People who have diabetes have an increased risk for some infections, according to Diabetes Canada.

Leslie Bank is in “fight or flight” mode. 

The 34-year-old was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 15 years ago, and developed health anxiety five years ago. Bank has used clinical psychology and cognitive behavioural therapy to control her mental health. She had a healthy pregnancy in December, and has been practising social distancing since then because she was worried about cold and flu season. 

But she says the spread of COVID-19 is triggering her strongest fears. She’s worried about getting sick, running out of medical supplies, having trouble managing her blood sugar or not being able to access medical care. 

“I can’t shut off the panic, which makes it even harder to manage my disease,” Bank, who works for a hospital foundation in London, Ont., told HuffPost Canada in an email. “The fear is no longer in my head, it’s everywhere around me.”

Leslie Bank and her husband, Devan.

She doesn’t think she could survive COVID-19, calling her diabetes a “double whammy”: the novel coronavirus can be deadly for a healthy person, but managing her blood sugars, she’s also at risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis, which is also life-threatening.

Bank has tried to keep a sense of control by stocking up on medication, supplies and other emergency items, but she still worries about running out. 

“I desperately want everyone to start social distancing or even self-isolation — my life depends on it — but it’s tough to accept that I can’t control the actions of others,” she said.

 WATCH: Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says the community spread of COVID-19 is growing. Story continues below

People with pre-existing health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes, are more at risk of developing a serious illness from COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. In Canada, about 6.8 per cent of people had diabetes in 2008-09, according to research by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and one in five...

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