Wisconsin pediatric diabetes cases increase as 'alarming' new study finds link with COVID-19

NOW: Wisconsin pediatric diabetes cases increase as ’alarming’ new study finds link with COVID-19

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Local doctors say new research suggesting a link between COVID-19 and diabetes in children is "alarming."

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, looked at more than half a million kids with COVID-19 and compared them to children who never had COVID-19. The study found those with COVID-19 were at a higher risk of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

"It was two and a half times more likely in kids who had had COVID than those who had never had COVID," said Dr. Elizabeth Mann, the director of the Pediatric Type Two Diabetes Program at UW Health Kids.

That's on par with trends Mann is seeing.

"Here in Wisconsin, we are also seeing increased rates, and even in the last one to two years, our rates of diabetes in kids have gone up tremendously," Mann said.

She said that puts stress on the system and it can be challenging to find hospital beds for the children.

For parents who've been hesitant to get their kids vaccinated, doctors hope this new finding may persuade them.

"I know parents want to do what they -- the best they can for their kids, but we want to make sure they also are making those decisions based on facts and not misinformation," said Dr. Lyn Ranta, a board member for the Wisconsin chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Ranta points out that the country is a year into mass vaccination programs and health officials aren't seeing any significant long-term effects from the COVID-19 shots. But there are lasting impacts from diabetes, which affects heart health, kidneys and vision.

"Vaccinations are absolutely our best approach protecting ourselves, but diabetes is a lifelong complication," Ranta said.

Mann said the study didn't answer a big question: why there's an increased risk of diabetes after getting COVID-19. But she said Types 1 and 2 are very different diseases and are likely happening for different reasons.

"There's a lot that we don't know about COVID and how it is affecting diabetes," Mann said. "It might be that COVID is directly affecting the pancreas. It might be that the immune system is affected. And it might be that the environment that has been changed now because of COVID is influencing or causing some kids who were predisposed to getting diabetes -- might cause it to happen a little bit sooner."

She said common signs of diabetes are a child being more thirsty than normal, frequent urination, being tired, losing weight, nausea and vomiting. If a child is exhibiting these symptoms, they should be checked out by a doctor.

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