Expert explained: Here's what happens to the lungs of people infected with coronavirus

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Expert explained: Here's what happens to the lungs of people infected with coronavirus

The new coronavirus appeared in late 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where it caused numerous cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause. It was soon discovered that it was a new virus – the serious acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or Sars-CoV-2. The disease he causes is called COVID-19. Dr. John Wilson explained for The Guardian the range of COVID-19 disease, explaining that in some cases symptoms were absent, while in other patients serious illness leading to pneumonia developed.

The World Health Organization has declared a new coronavirus a pandemic, pointing out that most patients have only mild cold-like symptoms. According to their report, about 80 percent of COVID-19 patients recover without the need for treatment. Only one in six people become seriously ill and “have difficulty breathing.”

How does this virus affect people?

Professor John Wilson at the Royal University of Physicians says that almost all patients with serious COVID-19 symptoms present with pneumonia. He believes that all patients with the new coronavirus can be classified into four categories.

The least serious cases are people who have the virus but have no symptoms. These are followed by those with upper respiratory tract infection, that is, those who have fever and cough and mild symptoms such as headache and conjunctivitis.

“These people with milder symptoms can still transmit the virus, but many are unaware of it,” he says.

The most common category is those who are positive for COVID-19 and who in most cases end up in the hospital and who have symptoms similar to a severe cold. In the fourth category are those who have severe symptoms with pneumonia.

“In Wuhan, it turned out that of those who were positive for the virus and who sought medical attention, only 6 percent had serious symptoms,” Wilson said.

The World Health Organization claims that older people and those with health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and lung disease or diabetes are at greater risk of developing severe symptoms.

How does pneumonia develop?

When people who have COVID-19 start coughing and have a fever, this, according to Wilson, is a sign that the infection has reached the respiratory system – to the air openings that conduct air from the outside to the body.

“The protective layer of these respiratory organs becomes damaged, leading to inflammation. This causes nerve irritation and even a small amount of dust can cause coughs. If they become infected, they respond by ejecting material from inflammation into the air sacs that are located at the bottom of the lungs, ā€¯Wilson explains.

If the air sacs become inflamed, “excessive leakage of material resulting from inflammation into the lungs occurs and pneumonia develops.” According to him, lungs full of material resulting from inflammation fail to deliver enough oxygen to the bloodstream, which diminishes the body's ability to receive oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

“It's the most common cause of death in the case of severe pneumonia,” he says.

How can pneumonia be treated?

So far, there is nothing that can prevent the pneumonia caused by Covid-19. People try a number of drugs in the hope that some combination will be effective. For now, there is no established treatment for treatment except for the care provided by the intensive care unit.

People connect to a mechanical ventilator (respirator) that maintains oxygen levels in their lungs until they recover enough to function normally again.

Wilson says patients with viral pneumonia are at risk of developing secondary infections as well, and he recommends that they be treated with both antibiotics and antiviral drugs. However, in some cases this is not enough and pneumonia eventually has a fatal outcome.

Is COVID-19 pneumonia different from ordinary inflammation?

Dr. Wilson argues that there is evidence that the pneumonia caused by COVID-19 could be particularly serious because it affects the entire lungs, not just the lungs.

“When we have an infection in both the lungs and air sacs, the body first responds by trying to destroy the virus and restrict its reproduction,” he explains, noting that this first reaction could be weaker in some groups of people, including those with heart and lung disease and diabetes as well as the elderly.

According to experts, people over 65 are generally more at risk of pneumonia, as are those with chronic lung, heart, kidney and liver diseases, and those with cancer or diabetes, and smokers are at risk. No matter how healthy a life they lead, the risk of pneumonia increases with age as our immune system becomes weaker and the body tends to struggle with infections and disease.

Expert explained: Here's what happens to the lungs of people infected with coronavirus

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