The answers to commonly asked Covid-19 questions
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The impact of Covid-19 is resonating across the world, and yet some know so little or not enough about the virus and how to modify their behaviour in response.
Reality is that the uncertainty will heighten anxiety about the pandemic. IOL spoke to health advocate and author Dr Tshidi Gule affectionately known as Dr G, a qualified medical doctor to help us answer all our Covid-19 questions.
What parts of your body does it attach itself to first?
Coronaviruses attach to any living cell in order to invade it and replicate. This is known as a host cell. Viruses thusmultiply in the same manner inside a human being. Due to the nature of transmission between human beings (droplet spread, contact with an infected person), the most common areas it will spread to first is the respiratory tract. It does so especially in the nasopharynx and down into the lungs. But it also can invade the cells of the liver, bowels, and heart.
How does your body react to the virus?
The body's natural immune response to any virus infection is to mount a defense. A huge array of cells and chemicals work together in order to rid the body of any virus. This is a complex system. The Covid-19 strain seems to initially evade the immune response for about two weeks before being detected and once discovered, the body launches an aggressive immune response, mobilizing the body’s various defense mechanisms (granulocytes, interferons, antibodies).
What are the visible and non-visible symptoms?
According to the Centre of Disease Control (CDC), people with Covid-19 present with a very wide variety of symptoms which appear usually within 2 weeks of being exposed to the virus. These symptoms include the following:
- Dry Cough
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chills/ rigors
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
What happens to your body once you’re infected?
The body's initial response to any intruder is to mount an immune response to get rid of the virus. It does this in different ways by activating immunity pathways to kill the virus. The human immune system has learned over many years how to deal with novel viruses and when healthy is able to deal with the Covid-19 strain as it would deal with other respiratory viruses. This is good news as this strain is known to cause mild illness in more than 80% of identified cases worldwide.
Does it affect your mental health when you get diagnosed with it?
It is common to experience the initial anxiety and acute stress to the positive result of Covid-19. However with support during self-isolation and treatment of symptoms, it is important that one reaches out for emotional support when unwell to avoid having more severe mental health challenges such as depression as in many cases the virus does not lead to severe illness.
Does one feel dizzy when infected? Or is it our minds playing games with us?
Dizziness has not been noted as a symptom of Covid-19. However one may experience dizziness if they have a headache or fever as it is often associated with those symptoms. Checking blood pressure is also important to understand the cause.
Does one have a runny nose or get blocked, does it affect eardrums?
The virus is known to cause flu-like symptoms so this would include nasal congestion, mild fever, inflammation of the ENT (ear, nose, throat) system.
Does one feel tired/fatigued when infected?
With virus infections generally, one will have periods of tiredness as the body conserves energy in order to increase the immune system response. This does ease up with each day of recovery and good self-care practices whole isolating (eating healthy, hydration, sleep, keeping warm, cleanliness).
Does the virus affect one’s heart in any way?
The virus' effect on the heart has not yet been established. Studies of people in China who were hospitalized with Covid-19 found that some developed heart problems, including arrhythmias, but the exact cause and prognosis behind those problems is still being investigated.
What happens if the virus finds you with a strong and healthy immune system?
It will cause what we term a mild respiratory illness in most healthy human beings who do not have an underlying chronic condition. This will usually last 10-14 days and is described as flu-like.
Conversely, what if it finds you with a weak immune system?
The risk of complications are high in immunocompromised patients due to the delay in immune cells being able to fight the virus effectively. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people will have complications, which may be caused by a condition known as cytokine release syndrome or a cytokine storm. This happens when an infection triggers your immune system to flood your bloodstream with inflammatory proteins called cytokines which can kill tissue and damage your vital organs. The most common complications recorded include:
- Pneumonia - lung infection
- Acute respiratory failure - your lungs struggle to pump enough oxygen into your blood or take enough carbon dioxide out. Both of these problems can happen at the same time. It is known to be the leading cause of death.
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome - the lungs become so severely damaged that fluid begins to build up inside them, resulting in a struggle to get oxygen into the bloodstream. This will often result in the need for a ventilator.
- Septic shock - this occurs when the immune response of the body doesn't work as it should and instead of killing the virus, it damages the tissues of the organs.
- Blood clots
- Acute kidney injury
Are there any additional facts you would like to share about Covid-19?
Scientists are working around the clock to combat the impact of this novel virus in at risk communities.The primary goal at this stage is prevention through safe hygiene practices at work and at home.