How Does COVID-19 Attack Your Body?

how covid 19 kills

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Stages of COVID-19 attacks on your body

Most of you may be able to survive the COVID-19 but for some, it could result in death. According to WHO, about 80% of people with COVID-19 recover without needing any specialist treatment but for some, the infection gets severe and they develop difficulty breathing.

Incubation

This is when the virus has entered your body and established itself. It works by getting inside your body cells and hijacking them.  

First the virus starts in your respiratory tract by infecting the cells lining your throat, airways and lungs. Soon after, they start to duplicate large quantities of new viruses to infect the rest of your body cells. 

In this early stage, you will not be sick and may not develop symptoms. It can take from two to 14 days for symptoms to show after the virus has entered your body. For the majority, symptoms usually appear within five days. 

During the incubation period before one begins to feel sick, the infected can unknowingly go on to spread this virus to others which makes COVID-19 so effective at spreading across the world very quickly. 

Mild Illness

Your immune system counterattacks once your body spots the virus. Usually eight out of 10 people only experience mild infections.

Core symptoms include fever and cough while other symptoms may include body aches, sore throat and headache. The fever is a result of your immune system responding to the infection by releasing chemicals called cytokines to fight the hostile invaders. 

You will also experience coughings due to the irritation of the infected cells in your airways. Initially coronavirus cough is dry cough. Eventually some will cough up sputum, a thick mucus containing dead lung cells killed by the virus. 

Mild symptoms like these do not need specialist hospital care and are treated with bed rest, plenty of fluids and paracetamol. Your immune system will take about a week to fight off the virus.

Severe and Fatal illnesses

However, older people and those with chronic or underlying medical conditions are susceptible to develop severe to fatal infections. 

If the disease progresses it will be due to the immune system overreacting to the virus by causing too much inflammation resulting in collateral damage throughout the body. Researchers have yet to know how the virus is able to trigger an imbalance in the immune response. 

Tiny air sacs filled with fluid in lungs because of inflammation is called pneumonia which will result in shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. This is when more serious medical problems can occur. 

This fluid in the lungs can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, otherwise known as ARDS. People who get this condition are usually already in the hospital for the illness that caused it. ARDS makes it difficult or impossible to breathe.

Some will need a ventilator to help them breathe as fluid collects in the lungs, they carry less oxygen to your blood. 

It gets critical when your body starts to fail because your immune system is spiralling out of control causing damage throughout the body. 

At this point, ARDS stops the blood from supplying your organs with enough oxygen to survive resulting in multi-organ failure. Organs like your kidneys, lungs, and liver shut down leading to septic shock when blood pressure collapses and your organs stopped working.

Treatment by this stage would be extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) which is highly invasive. ECMO is an artificial lung that takes blood out of the body through thick tubes, oxygenates it and pumps it back in.

However, the damage can eventually reach fatal levels at which the patient succumbs.

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