According to this article documented and published by OxyMed, the virus COVID-19 initially affects the lungs:
- As with other coronavirus illnesses — including SARS, MERS, and the common cold — COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, so the lungs are usually affected first.
- Early symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These appear as soon as 2 days, or as long as 14 days, after exposure to the virus.
- The severity of COVID-19 varies from mild or no symptoms to severe or sometimes fatal illness.
- Some people may only have minor respiratory symptoms, while others develop non-life-threatening pneumonia. But there’s a subset of people who develop severe lung damage.
- There are no targeted therapeutics or vaccines for the new virus — and so doctors and nurses in the ICUs are left to administer drugs and oxygen to keep clients alive long enough for their bodies to fight the infection and repair lungs ravaged by pneumonia.
- As the virus attacks the lungs, it becomes harder and harder for clients to get enough oxygen into their bloodstream to support their kidneys, liver and heart, and they develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARSD).
- The ARSD induces damage to the lungs, which leads to fluid leaking from small blood vessels in the lungs. The fluid collects in the lungs’ air sacs, or alveoli. This makes it difficult for the lungs to transfer oxygen from the air to the blood – induced hypoxia.
- One recent study of 138 people hospitalized for COVID-19 found that on average, people started having difficulty breathing 5 days after showing symptoms. ARDS developed on average 8 days after symptoms.
- Treatment for ARDS involves supplemental (normobaric and hyperbaric) oxygen and mechanical ventilation, with the goal of getting more oxygen into the blood.