BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33)(FOX 44) – Pneumonia, bronchitis, and pulmonary disease… All common illnesses that harm the lungs. But, Johnathan Richards, a pulmonologist at Our Lady of the Lake, says COVID-19 is much different.
“Coronavirus is especially hard on the lungs and tends to cause a lot more inflammation than the viruses that we see,” Richards says.
That inflammation is water and fluid that build up inside the lungs. It keeps oxygen from flowing into the rest of the body. And that’s what makes COVID-19 so deadly. If there’s not enough oxygen to go around, the patient could die.
“That makes it much more difficult for our bodies to handle a virus that our immune system just doesn’t know how to fight,”Richards says.
A healthy lung looks like this one here. The black is just open space where oxygen can move freely and the person can breath with ease. Now if you look at this one, most of the black area is covered in white, which is inflammation blocking the airways. Someone with this type of imflammation may need a ventilator to breath. At that point survival chances start to drop.
Now, doctors are concerned about the future. For some people, beating the virus is only half the battle. There’s leftover lung damage and possible heart conditions that could likely follow recovery. It’s the unknown that keep doctors up at night.
“We have numbers from Italy and China. But what we don’t know is what life will look like for them months and years down the line.”