Q&A: Could COVID Lead to Higher Risk of Diabetes in Children?

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As more and more kids get COVID-19, there are questions about how the virus could impact their bodies even after the initial symptoms go away.

Recently, the CDC put out a report saying there could be a link between kids getting COVID, and then later being diagnosed with diabetes.

Dr. Jennifer Sherr, an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Yale, joined us to speak about the CDC report and the message parents should take away from it.

DAN CORCORAN: That CDC report that came out a few weeks ago looked at the risk for diabetes diagnosis and children after about with COVID. What did you take from that report? And what if anything, are you and your colleagues seeing with this?

DR. JENNIFER SHERR: I think that that report that came out, really provided a lot of information. And we've heard a lot of talk about it. And the authors reported that they're seeing higher rates of new onset diabetes, and those with a recent COVID infection. But I think it's really critical whenever we are looking at things like this, to consider a couple of factors as we interpret the data. So the first thing is that when they went ahead and pulled this database information, they didn't distinguish between type one and type two diabetes, it was just a diagnosis of diabetes. And we know that those two conditions are vastly different. In addition to that, there was no indication about obesity in the children. And so we would suspect that with type two diabetes, we would see higher rates of obesity. And so while I think this data is important, I think it leaves us with more questions than answers at this point.

DAN: And could this just be another example of how mysterious this COVID-19 viruses or could a diabetes diagnosis actually be the result of something else altogether, like you just mentioned?

DR. SHERR: I can say that anecdotally, here at Yale, we've seen increased risk of type two diabetes and more diagnosis of type two diabetes. And it sort of makes sense. During the pandemic, when everything was shut down. We know that many of us may have been snacking, more often, physical activity was really limited. We saw youth sports get closed. And so there was considerable weight gain. And so I don't think it's necessarily related to a viral infection, but more the societal changes that occurred with a pandemic.

DAN: It is such a confusing time. And if there are parents listening to this conversation right now, and they're concerned about this, what's step number one for them?

DR. SHERR: Yeah, so I think for parents as they consider all this information, I think it's important to first recognize that when we think about this report, you know, we know that correlation does not mean causation. And so what that means is we shouldn't take it away that, oh, my child got COVID, they're going to be at much greater risk for diabetes. Instead, what it speaks to is that we need to be thoughtful about the symptoms associated with diabetes.

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