How Coronavirus Attacks the Body | NYT News

It doesn’t take long for mild coronavirus symptoms to turn serious. These virtual reality images show how the virus can invade the lungs and kill.

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You’re looking at
a virtual reality imageof a coronavirus patient
at George Washington Hospitalin Washington, D.C.The patient is a generally
healthy 59-year-old manwith high blood pressure.Just days before this
image was created,he was asymptomatic.But now, those green areas
show where the infection hasdamaged tissue in the lungs.For many, Covid-19
will be mild,but for others it’s deadly.This video is about
the latter path:How the virus kills.We’ll start in China:191 confirmed
Covid-19 patientswere in a hospital in Wuhan —54 died.Of those 54, 50 had a
condition known as ARDS,Acute Respiratory
Distress Syndrome.It’s a condition
that stops oxygenfrom reaching the organs.“You have air hunger.”“It means that they
can’t breathe.”“There’s a very
strong correlationbetween the people who develop
ARDS and the people who die.”ARDS is not unique
to Covid-19.“It’s such a long
list of causes:infection, people
with H.I.V./AIDS.If you get into a big
motor vehicle accidentand sustain multiple
injuries to multiple organs,that causes ARDS,SARS and MERS.Now, things that you inhale
and that can be toxiccan cause ARDS:household bleach, you know,
war gases, mustard gasand phosgene.To the people who vaped THC
that was contaminatedwith vitamin E acetate,
and those patientswere also developing ARDS.”Here’s what’s actually
happening when you get ARDS.When we breathe in air,
oxygen goes down our windpipeand fills the lungs.Specifically, the small air sacs
at the end of the lungsare the key to air exchange
in the body.“So that’s why
nature has created,or evolution has created,
this very, very —the barrier is so thin.It’s just a few
micrometers in size.So the oxygen has to go
through just a little bitof collagen, the cell
that lines the alveolus,into the red blood cell.Once it gets into
the red blood cell,then the blood takes it back
into the heart and from thereto the rest of the body.”And this is the key
to understanding whyCovid-19 is killing people.“That entire wall
of the air sacgets damaged by the virus.Think of it like a
thick layer of painton the inside of
the walls of a roomor a thick layer
of mold on the wallson the inside of the room.That’s what it looks like.”As that wall becomes thicker,
oxygen can no longerpass into the bloodstream,and your organs
begin to suffocate.So if you are sick, you
might be asking yourself:Am I on the mild path
or the serious path?A good indication is whether
you have severe shortnessof breath and for how long.Those are indications the
virus has progressed lowerinto the lungs.One small study of
hospitalized patientsin China found that zero to
two days after developmentof symptoms, chest scans
were coming backnormal for more than
half of patients.Keep in mind,
these are patientsthat were sick enough
to be in the hospital.But within three to five days
after symptoms started,that flipped, and 91 percent
of hospitalized patientshad significant
respiratory issues.“As you progress beyond
the seven to 10 days stage,that’s when the ARDS
seems to be developing.And once it develops,
it develops rapidly fastcompared to ARDS developing
from let’s say another cause.And these patients
seem to be doingmuch worse over a relatively
faster period of time.”Many people have mild or even
no symptoms with the virus.But the longer
Covid-19 affectsyour lungs, the higher the risk
of serious respiratory issues.“And the longer
you’re on the ventilator,the less likelihood you will
come off the ventilator.That is the blunt truth
of this situation.”“When I saw this
in our first patient,and you see the extent
of the damage andhow it affects both lungs and
various parts of the lungs,and it’s much
more striking evenfor somebody who’s
been in practicefor almost 20 years.”And that’s what happened
to this patient.“Just about one week after
being at our hospital,unfortunately he passed away.Really my goal of trying to
get this out into the publicis so that they understand
the severity of the problemthat we’re seeing, and
why the social distancingand the flatten the curve,
and every other hashtag that’scome up in the
past couple weeks,is just so, so important —is because this is a
community-wide problem.It’s a global problem,and it’s going to take a
community solution.Right?Everybody has a role to play.And if you’re not in the
health care field right now,your role is to stay home.All right?Because again, the virus
doesn’t move on its own.People move.People transmit the virus.”Gov. Cuomo: “And the longer
you’re on the ventilator,the less likelihood you will
come off the ventilator.”

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