Covid-19 is primarily a respiratory infection that attacks the lungs, making it harder for patients to breathe and get enough oxygen to the rest of the body. Pneumonia and other respiratory conditions can quickly set in, eventually leading to death if the body cannot fight off the infection.
But after over four months of cases, doctors are getting a more detailed look at some of the unexpected ways the virus hits the human body beyond the nasal cavity, throat, and lungs. Here are a few new things we’ve learned in recent weeks:
The blood. There’s mounting evidence the inflammation that arises from a covid-19 infection leads to blood clots that can do serious harm. One of the biggest examples is “happy hypoxia,” which doctors so far suspect is caused by blood clots in the lungs. Many other reports indicate that these clots can affect any number of organs, including the kidneys, blood vessels, intestines, liver, and even the brain. One study from the Netherlands found that up to 38% of critically ill patients suffered from complications related to blood clots.
The brain. The most severe effect the virus might have on the brain is a stroke most probably caused by—you guessed it—blood clots in arteries leading to the brain. This is happening even in young patients. But the virus may also be causing some milder neurological symptoms—most notably a loss of taste and smell.
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