As the days pass by, new knowledge is uncovered about the novel coronavirus disease.
It’s clear that COVID-19 can be more than just a respiratory disease. It’s joined the ranks of other “great imitators” — diseases that can look like almost any condition.
It can be a gastrointestinal disease causing only diarrhea and abdominal pain. It can cause symptoms that may be confused with a cold or the flu. It can cause pinkeye, a runny nose, loss of taste and smell, muscle aches, fatigue, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, whole-body rashes, and areas of swelling and redness in just a few spots.
In a more severe disease, doctors have also reported people having heart rhythm problems, heart failure, kidney damage, confusion, headaches, seizures, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and fainting spells, along with new sugar control problems.
It’s not just a fever and coughing, leading to shortness of breath, like everyone thought at first.
This makes it incredibly difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat.
“This is a disease progression we have never seen for any infection that I can think of, and I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades,” says Joseph Vinetz, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Yale School of Medicine.
Many with mild or no symptoms are able to fend off the virus before it gets worse. These people may have symptoms only in the upper airway, at the site where they were first infected. But when someone’s body can’t destroy the virus at its entry point, viral particles march deeper into the body. The virus seems to take a few paths from there, either setting up camp in the lungs, fighting its way into the digestive tract, or doing some combination of both. This is why we keep saying it’s not everyone that can afford to contract this disease. If you think you have a chance at recovery because of the rate of recovery recorded, a loved one might not have the same luxury!
“There’s clearly a respiratory syndrome, and that’s why people end up in the hospital. Some people get a gastrointestinal illness with diarrhea, maybe some abdominal pain, which may or may not be associated with a respiratory illness,” says Vinetz.
Even though researchers are learning more each day about the virus and how and where it attacks the body, treatment geared toward these targets also pose significant problems. Many drugs come with a risk of destroying the delicate balance that allows the body to help fight the disease or to manage inflammation.