SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — As COVID-19 has spread through our homes, or schools, our communities and our world, it has become increasingly clear that this is no ordinary virus. COVID has the potential to cause devastating damage to your health, both in the present and in the future.
Today, KELOLAND News spoke with Avera Health’s Dr. David Basel about the effects of COVID-19 on the human body.
“When you think of COVID,” said Basel “first and foremost you think of it as being a respiratory illness — certainly you’re going to see, short-term, a lot of shortness of breath and coughing, mucous production, all of those sorts of things.”
In the long-term however, Basel says there are other concerns. “More significant infections with COVID can actually cause scarring in the lungs,” he said. “We’re just now finding out it may be increasing asthma incidence, and so it may be triggering more reactivity in your airways.”
Basel says anything that affects your lungs will also affect your ability to exert yourself, having a direct impact on your future stamina.
“Another interesting part, and kind of sad part of COIVD, is that it also seems to affect the vasculature — blood vessels and the blood as well,” said Basel. “It can be causing a lot of different types of blood clots, and we’ve seen heart-attacks associated with it, irregular heartbeats; all of those sorts of things can happen with COVID.”
Basel took time to be sure to highlight the unique threat that COVID presents.
I think it’s important to realize that COVID is a distinctly different, more dangerous virus than a lot of other viruses, even like influenza, long term.Dr. David Basel
Beyond your heart and lungs, there may be even more to worry about.
“[COVID] actually goes pretty much everywhere in the body,” Basel said. “One different thing about COVID than a lot of other viruses is that it crosses into the blood-brain barrier.”
Basel says this crossing of the blood-brain barrier is why you lose your sense of smell and taste when contracting the virus. Beyond not being able to smell and taste some of your favorite things, Basel says they have seen long-term cases of what is being called ‘brain fog’, where people’s thinking is less clear and may be coupled with chronic fatigue.
Another place that COVID does damage is within another vital organ.
“Certainly we have seen some people go into kidney damage,” said Basel.
The National Kidney Foundation reported that acute kidney injury is occurring in 15% of all patients. According to Johns Hopkins, this kidney damage is in some cases, severe enough to require dialysis.
“Anything that can affect the blood supply can damage the kidneys,” said Basel. “So toxins can start to accumulate in the blood, fluid can start to accumulate as well and so it can contribute to congestive heart failure.”
But COVID won’t necessarily stop with your kidneys either. The American Journal of Managed Care states that it can also lead to acute liver damage and septic shock. “Pretty much any other organ system it can get to, because it goes systemically and goes anywhere,” said Basel.
When looking at how much more dangerous the Delta variant could be than the base strain, Basel said that some things are still being determined.
“We absolutely know that Delta spreads much more rapidly,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure out whether it causes much more severe disease, or if we’re just seeing so much more of it.”
Basel says there are some potential ways to mitigate damage to those who have contracted COVID.
“I would encourage you to talk to your primary care physician,” he said. “There are some, especially for higher-risk individuals, there is some monoclonal antibody therapies and things that can help reduce your chances of having more severe disease.”
One final thing Basel wanted to highlight was the effects of COVID-19 on mental health.
“If you’re not feeling good for a long period of time, you’re going to really have to work not to struggle with depression and anxiety and all the mental health aspects of this we’ve seen on the rise as well.”