Why COVID-19 is killing some people and not others

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When diagnosing COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath and a high temperature are the first thinks doctors look for. 

But as we learn more about it, we are finding patients with other symptoms such as blood clots, strokes, and GI issues. But there are other weird symptoms. Some are relatively mild, like the loss of smell and taste. Some people have chilburn-like sores on the edge of their toes.

Some symptoms are fatal, such as when what doctors call a Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) or cytokine storm syndrome (CSS) – an immune storm that destroys vital organs – occurs. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, fast breathing, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, seizures, headache, confusion, delirium, hallucinations, tremor, and loss of coordination.

CRS occurs when large numbers of white blood cells are activated and release inflammatory cytokines, which activate more white blood cells in a positive feedback loop of pathogenic inflammation. It can be life-threatening due to systemic hyper-inflammation, hypotensive shock, and multi-organ failure.

According to a CDC report in March, nearly 90% of patients hospitalized with coronavirus (COVID-19) had one or more underlying health conditions. The most common were hypertension (49.7%), obesity (48.3%), chronic lung disease (34.6%), diabetes (28.3%), and cardiovascular disease (27.8%).

These conditions were even more prevalent in deceased COVID-19 patients, according to data released by Louisiana, New York and New Jersey.

The more this virus is studied, the more complex it appears to be.

The UK’s newspaper The Financial Times has lifted its paywall for Coronavirus items. They have a very informative article here.