The pandemic virus that causes COVID-19 has now infected nearly 3 million people, and killed over 200,000. The virus, called SARS-CoV-2 is highly infectious, and the illness it leads to can look very different in different patients. Some people who are infected, and contagious, show no symptoms at all and never even know they are sick. Others become so ill they die. While there are some groups that are known to be at greater risk for a more serious illness, such as the elderly, those generalizations have not held true in every single case; many elderly people have survived their infections, and not all healthy young people escape a serious infection.
It was initially thought to be a respiratory illness that caused a dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath. In serious cases, the virus causes serious breathing difficulties, leaving some patients on ventilators to help them breathe.
As more and more people have been infected with the virus, anecdotal evidence has been pouring in; the virus can affect many more organ systems.
There are reports that young people with no history of health problems and none of the 'typical' COVID-19 symptoms have been dying from strokes. Doctors are only finding the infection in these patients after a post-mortem test is performed.
"The virus seems to be causing increased clotting in the large arteries, leading to severe stroke," Dr. Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, told CNN. "Our report shows a sevenfold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks. Most of these patients have no past medical history and were at home with either mild symptoms (or in two cases, no symptoms) of COVID," Oxley added.
A recent Science publication has outlined all the ways that this devastating pathogen can harm the human body.
“[The disease] can attack almost anything in the body with devastating consequences,” cardiologist Harlan Krumholz of Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, who is leading multiple efforts to gather clinical data on COVID-19, told Science. “Its ferocity is breathtaking and humbling.”