For most people the coronavirus is a news event, something to watch from afar. For others who come down with it, it’s a flu-like illness that goes away. For a small percentage, however, it is a killer.
Some 15% of COVID-19 cases are severe, and 5% are critical.
Why does an otherwise healthy middle aged man go into the hospital and die from the coronavirus? Here are some answers:
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 surges past 2.2 million globally and deaths surpass 150,000, clinicians and pathologists are struggling to understand the damage wrought by the coronavirus as it tears through the body. They are realizing that although the lungs are ground zero, its reach can extend to many organs including the heart and blood vessels, kidneys, gut, and brain.
“[The disease] can attack almost anything in the body with devastating consequences,” says cardiologist Harlan Krumholz of Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, who is leading multiple efforts to gather clinical data on COVID-19. “Its ferocity is breathtaking and humbling.”
Although a cause-and-effect relationship is unknown, people with the virus have presented with or developed heart disease, acute liver injury, ongoing GI issues, skin manifestations, neurologic damage, and other problems, especially among sicker people.
For example, French physicians described an association with encephalopathy, agitation, confusion, and corticospinal tract signs among 58 people hospitalized with acute respiratory distress.
The novel coronavirus has a few common symptoms that can be very misleading. Fever, cough, fatigue, and muscle pain are also typical of the common cold or flu, as are chills, shaking, headache, and sore throat. Shortness of breath can also appear, and breathing issues are common for other ailments. But doctors who have observed COVID-19 patients have been able to identify a slew of other symptoms that might be indicative of a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The sudden loss of smell and taste is one of the most popular signs of COVID-19. It’s been studied and explained, and it’s now associated with the new disease. Other neurological or cardiac manifestations have been observed in patients who may have not experienced other symptoms. And if you encounter skin lesions similar to frostbite, or you have bluish lips or face, then you might have COVID-19.