The journal Science reported Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, "acts like no pathogen we've ever seen."
As the disease wreaks havoc globally, we are learning this powerful virus attacks the lungs, brain, eyes, nose, throat, kidneys, liver — virtually every organ of the body, not just the respiratory system. While we do not know for sure what the long-term effects on our health will be, experts predict even mild cases of coronavirus can leave lingering illness.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported the disease could inflict lasting, permanent damage on its victims. Some infectious disease experts said the health conditions caused by the virus could last for months, if not years.
Here are some potential ways the disease can cause long-term damage:
- Lungs. A report from China showed, of 70 patients who survived COVID-19 pneumonia, 66 developed lung damage. Some suffered scarred lung tissue, a condition that is not treatable or reversible and can cause difficulty breathing.
- Heart and blood vessels. The Independent reported 20% of hospitalized patients from Wuhan, China, suffered heart damage. Studies have shown COVID-19 patients also develop arrythmias, or irregular heartbeats. Like other viral infections, COVID-19 causes myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle. The virus has also been shown to cause damaging blood clots. Studies in China and France reported, between 5% and 30% of the hospitalized patients suffered strokes, blockages in arteries, or pulmonary embolisms, which are obstructions in the lungs, said the Chronicle. Actor Nick Cordero had his right leg amputated after he suffered COVID-19 related blood clots.
- Kidneys. Research conducted in Wuhan revealed 27% of hospitalized patients had kidney failure. According to The Independent, another study showed 59% of patients hospitalized in China's Hubei and Sichuan provinces had protein in their urine and 44% had blood — both indicators of kidney damage.
- Brain. A full one-third of 214 COVID-19 patients experienced neurological symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and cognitive impairment, according to one study. Some suffered a loss of sense and taste, indicating the pathogens had affected nerve cells. Professor Ed Bullmore, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, told The Independent, COVID-19 could be classified as a "neurotoxic illness," based on current scientific evidence. He added the psychiatric effects could last well over a decade.
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