Are kids who had COVID-19 more likely to develop diabetes? Disease expert says study is premature

PITTSBURGH — As coronavirus cases continue to rise in our area due to the omicron variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a major study saying kids who had COVID-19 are more likely to develop Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes more than 30 days after infection than kids who have not had COVID-19.

The research reviewed data collected from more than 2.5 million patients under the age of 18 from March 2020 to June 2021.

However, an infectious disease doctor said it is premature to link COVID-19 with diabetes without considering certain factors.

“In this study, they don’t control for whether or not a child is obese. They don’t control for demographic factors,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja. “They also don’t distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes so I would say this study is not enough to be able to say that. There has been some suggestion that this is possible and could be a possible complication, but the CDC study is not robust enough and has so many limitations.”

Dr. Adalja said many respiratory viruses have been linked to Type 1 diabetes in children but there’s a difference between cause and correlation.

“What’s really hard to do is to prove a cause because a patient who gets sick with influenza or sick with Covid-19 then goes to the hospital, they can discover this person has undiagnosed diabetes.”

A situation like this happened with a local family. A mother from South Park said her 7-year-old daughter didn’t know she was diabetic until she got the flu, which caused her symptoms to worsen, and fortunately they caught her Type 1 diabetes early.

“It almost exacerbated her symptoms and they said it was a blessing in disguise that she was diagnosed with the flu prior because if she didn’t have the flu, she could have gone on another 3 months with these high blood sugars and symptoms,” Christy Faith said.

As COVID-19 cases surge, doctors are stressing that everyone who can get a vaccine, or a booster, should. Children as young as 5 are now eligible to get vaccinated.