Reduced lung function found in some coronavirus survivors

The Hong Kong Hospital Authority has discovered that some recovered coronavirus patients are experiencing reduced lung function after suffering with the virus.

Patients are being tested as they are discharged from the hospital in Hong Kong, and doctors have found that out of a dozen, two or three survivors had continued difficulty breathing if they walk briskly, the New York Post reported.

Lung scans on the affected patients showed damage to the organs, but it was not clear whether pulmonary fibrosis, or a hardening of the tissues, had set in or would do so in the future, according to the Post.

Business Insider reported that a 20 to 30% drop in lung function was observed in the cases with reduced function. Most recovered patients did not have any reduction in lung function, however.

Long term prognosis

Patients with reduced lung function are being treated with physiotherapies like swimming and cardiovascular exercise, which could improve lung function over time, the Sun reported.

When people have coronavirus, some experience fluid or debris-filled sacs in the lungs, the Sun said.

The patients in Hong Kong are being treated with Kaletra, a medication originally used for HIV/AIDS; hepatitis C drug Ribavirin; and interferon, according to the Sun.

Hong Kong has had 130 cases of coronavirus there, with 74 of those having been discharged to this point, the Sun said. Four have died in the territory.

Many unknowns

The report is the first one to mention long term effects on those who survive the virus. The ages of those affected were not reported, but reduced lung function after the fact is very concerning.

The COVID-19 coronavirus seems to be striking the elderly and those with pre-existing chronic illnesses most severely, according to the CDC. You can read the CDC recommendations for high-risk groups here.

Many governments are shutting down schools and other public gatherings to reduce exposure to the virus. They are afraid of a situation like the one in Italy right now, where hospitals became overwhelmed with the number of seriously ill patients and were unable to give them all the best care.

The possibility of large numbers of people having lasting lung damage from this virus gives credence to the massive drive for “social distancing” to lessen its spread.

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