CLAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Danielle Lawson had COVID-19 in mid-March when the outbreak was beginning to shut down the state. A physical therapy assistant for several nursing homes in the Miami Valley, Lawson struggled with the virus for two weeks before she began feeling like her normal self.
“The whole two weeks, I was really down, very fatigued,” Lawson said. “I had shortness of breath, my oxygen levels were dropping to the low 90s and my heart rate was sky-high, even at rest. I would walk to the bathroom and feel like I was going to pass out.”
Lawson said she lost her sense of smell and taste for several weeks, as the virus ran through her body, but counts herself as one of the lucky ones. She recovered from the virus without developing any long-term health problems.
“One of the things that continues to raise everyone’s awareness of COVID-19 is how different the disease is for different populations,” Dr. Roberto Colon of Premier Health told WDTN.com. “We don’t understand why, but some have almost no symptoms at all, others have mild symptoms like a cold. Of course, there’s the other group – that is the minority, luckily – that are having severe manifestations.”
Colon said doctors have learned COVID-19 isn’t just a problem for the body’s respiratory system. In severe situations, it can cause an inflammatory cascade throughout the patient’s body and become systemic.
“This widespread inflammation through the body can cause blod clots,” Colon said. “That’s what leads to these strokes that are unexpected and problems with cirulation around the heart that can lead to heart attacks.
“Not only does COVID-19 by itself cause damage to the body that is longterm, but the secondary issues like blood clots and strokes are also potential risks as well.”
Young people not immune from major effects
Colon said young people are generally in a better position to handle the disease than those that are old or have health issues, but that isn’t always the case.
“One of the things we see with young people is the presence of strokes,” Colon said. “The presence of blood clots, they are having lung inflammation – that’s not something you expect to see in those young individuals.
“Age alone isn’t a guarantee you won’t have any manifestations. We’ve seen younger patients that have had severe manifestations and had to be placed on a ventilator. One common issue is if they have a form of lung disease like asthma, diabetes or COPD, that can predispose them (to long-term issues).”
Colon said many patients develop fibrosis in the lungs which is scarring down the tissue of the lung. He said this kind of damage is permanent and can lead to a permanent lung abnormality.
“They may not notice that much but for some, it can be problematic,” Colon said. “It could affect their day-to-day activity and it can happen in young people as well as older ones.”
Colon said younger people need to be aware of the major issues the virus can cause, especially as more of them become infected. During Gov. Mike DeWine’s press conference on Tuesday, July 7, DeWine said the highest percent of people in the state with COVID-19 in June and July are in the 20-29 age group.
Doctors know more about disease than in March
Colon said with the U.S. now four months into the outbreak, doctors and scientists have learned more about how the disease functions. He said with doctors in Asia, Europe and the United States sharing information and their experiences treating COVID-19, they’ve learned more about it and are better able to treat it. At the same time, testing capacity has been expanded as well as the number of ventilators and respirators, PPE and other life-saving equipment.
Dr. Don Brannen, who works for the Greene County Health Department, said the number of cases have been growing, while the death rate has been falling. He said there’s a number of factors that are causing that. Those who are the sickest are most likely to catch the virus at the onset of an outbreak. Also, the medical system has been catching up for the last several months and knows much more about COVID-19 than it did in March.
“One reason the death rate has decreased, is because of the nature of the diseases, the most susceptible of the population tend to get it first and succumb to it quicker than the rest of the population,” Brannen said. ” The medical system has also adapted and increased the survival rate.”
Brannen said despite the many horrible outcomes the disease can cause, most people who catch COVID-19 get over it fine.
“I can tell you right now, most people who get it recover,” Brannen said.
For more information on COVID-19, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control website.