FOREVER LEARNING— COVID-19
Idon’t know.” That is the fundamental drive of science. Every human being that has ever existed has been faced with some perplexity that results in the unending “I don’t know”. Every era, undoubtedly, assumes, maybe correctly, that they exist in unprecedented times. Bob Dylan correctly sang, “The times they are a changing.”
There have been many pandemics of varying complexity throughout human history. The 21st century affords our era the first real-time monitoring of a global novelty. Humanity is slowly trudging, with severe resistance, towards working together as a whole.By late December of 2019, there were reports of a sickness coming out of China. There was fumbling and downplaying and a lot of advice based on the best guesses at the time. The novel coronavirus was exactly its initial namesake—novel.
Though similar to the SARS scare of the early 21st century, this new strain got well out of hand beyond the expectations of experts across borders and academic disciplines. The fact that the pandemic has, not proverbially, but literally stopped the world, speaks volumes for the novelty of the situation.
Currently, the majority of the world has only been working towards vaccines and treatments for less than a year. Shockingly, long-term ramifications of contracting the virus have already, somewhat in these early stages, been foreseen.
No one can know the extent of the damage and lasting detriment that it could potentially cause. However, as it is a respiratory illness, those with mild or severe symptoms could likely be subject to oxygen deficit. Lack of oxygen not only causes distress to the body but starves the brain of needed O2 and could obviously induces panic-related episodes resulting in PTSD.
There has been evidence of the neurological complications of COVID-19 resulting in inflammation, psychosis, and delirium. Oxygen deprivation from the brain can lead to a host of unknown potential problems, even for those undiagnosed with mild conditions that could be catalysed by this disease.
Many disregard the severity of this disease due to conflicting reports of it having a low mortality rate. The mortality rate of a disease cannot be determined until after its full effect is observed and retroactively studied.
Though the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak only infected around 8,000 and killed 774, initially, it was thought the mortality was low and after the fact was found to be double the estimate that was postulated during the outbreak.
“Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause,” said Ross Paterson, a doctor who is co-leading a study of the ongoing issue.
Christian Bime, a medical director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Banner – University Medical Centre in Tucson afforded that, “We are learning something new every day. Our understanding of COVID-19’s long-term effects will depend greatly on ongoing studies over the next decades.”
For those unfortunate enough to exhibit a severe reaction to the COVID-19 virus, it has been observed that lung tissue swells with fluid, making lungs less elastic, the immune system goes into overdrive, sometimes at the expense of other organs, and as your body fights one infection, it is more susceptible to additional infections. It has also been observed that there has been a trend of blood clots becoming more common in COVID-19 patients.
Unfortunately, this virus doesn’t just affect the respiratory system, and some of the long-term effects observed at these early stages have been limited lung capacity compared to peers, psychiatric issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, cognitive impairment, and anxiety, due to the trauma of the illness and treatment, kidney complications which could lead to a need for long-term dialysis, and poor conditioning due to limited lung and/or organ function. And these have been observed and diagnosed within the first year of this plot twist to 2020.
Many assume that the worst of the potentials of this new virus are limited to the at-risk, namely diabetics, the overweight, asthmatics etc., but victims from the age of 18 to 40 have exhibited neurological dysfunctions such as delirium and confusion, even when presenting mild symptoms.
According to the BBC, “more than 300 studies from around the world have found a prevalence of neurological abnormalities in COVID-19 patients, including mild symptoms like headaches, loss of smell (anosmia) and tingling sensations (arcoparasthesia), up to more severe outcomes such as aphasia (inability to speak), strokes and seizures. This is in addition to recent findings that the virus, which has been largely considered to be a respiratory disease, can also wreak havoc on the kidneys, liver, heart, and just about every organ system in the body”.
Science is a journey of discovery. So far, researchers postulate, with evidence, that lung damage and scar tissue can leave those that have recovered from COVID-19 breathless and susceptible to ARDS, pneumonia, bronchitis etc. The heart can be weakened as a third of deaths from the disease had heightened arrhythmia. And half of patients with severe symptoms experience neurological symptoms. There might even be complications with bone marrow health.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “For some people, some symptoms may linger or recur for weeks or months following initial recovery. This can also happen in people with mild disease.”
Thus far, it has been observed that body systems and organs that can be affected include the heart via damage to heart muscle and heart failure; lungs via damage to lung tissue and restrictive lung failure; the brain and the nervous system through loss of sense of smell (anosmia); consequences of thromboembolic events such as pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke; cognitive impairment (e.g. memory and concentration); and mental health in the realm of anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and sleep disturbance; as well as musculoskeletal and other pain in joint and muscles, and general fatigue.
Studying this virus and its effects across the globe has only been undertaken for a year. There is much to be learned and better practices to be discovered. One of the best consequences of this pandemic has been the heightened awareness of hygiene, which has, thankfully, staved other detriments like the flu. Keep up to date and always open to discovery.