COVID-19 is a pandemic that has affected many countries around the globe. A virus known as coronavirus causes the disease, and it was first discovered in Wuhan, China, in 2019. Movements of people in and out of the country led to its spread to other nations. It has negatively impacted people’s lives and has resulted in the shutdown of countries as one of the methods of curbing the spread of the virus. Correspondingly, it has led to a new norm where events are taking place differently from the previous way. This paper discusses the effects of the virus, specifically on human beings’ respiratory system, the biological structure, and how it debilitates other systems’ functions.
The disease is spread by exposing the mouth, nose, and eyes to saliva droplets containing the virus. The incubation period is seven days, but it can also go up to 14 days. The disease’s symptoms can manifest as fever, headache, difficulty in breathing, cough, fatigue, weakness, and loss of sensory functioning.1 The signs and symptoms vary from one individual to another; however, in some people, the signs are not visible (asymptomatic). Patients with ocular symptoms have both higher white blood cell counts and procalcitonin levels, C-reactive protein, and lactate dehydrogenase.2 The virus most significantly affects the respiratory and circulatory processes including cardiovascular, lymphatic, and nervous systems, and it also has an impact on the mental and psychological well-being of an individual.
The Respiratory System
The respiratory system comprises tissues and organs which are responsible for the breathing process. The major organs include the lungs and blood vessels which carry blood where the gaseous exchange occurs. The lower respiratory tract consists of the lungs and windpipes and the upper tract which includes the nose is the human body part that is thought to be at higher risk of harboring the disease. The virus may find its way to the lungs in various ways. During the process, air taken in may contain moisture mixed with saliva droplets which may carry the virus. The saliva may also enter through the mouth when saliva droplets from an infected person enter the eyes. Finally, the droplets might be present on surface objects such as doorknobs and spread when someone touches them and fails to wash their hands with soap and water. The lung is the servilely impaired organ, with immense damage to the alveoli, leading to inhalation difficulties and cell inflammation.3 Respiratory failure leads to abnormal breathing due to lung impairment. Patients with complications such as pneumonia and pulmonary fibrosis find it hard to fight the virus and are easily overwhelmed by it.
The Nervous System
The nervous system, to a large extent, is also affected by the deadly disease. It is comprised of the spinal cord, the sensory organs, and the brain which controls all the mental activities such as thinking, memory, and even speech. Together with the endocrine system, it is responsible for regulating and maintaining homeostasis. The availability of the virus in the brain has been tested by clinical pathologists and has turned out positive.3 The virus finds its way to the brain through the olfactory route or the blood-brain barrier. Neurological effects such as loss of sense of smell, headache, and stroke have also been experienced. Failure of thinking may cause an individual to commit misconducts such as suicide as they may lack the sense that killing is unacceptable.
Moreover, the virus may also find attack the central nervous system and develop a protein called cytokines. This can lead to inflammation in the system and reduce its efficiency. Humans can develop neurological disorders such as encephalitis, encephalophalopathy, ischemic stroke, and epileptic seizures. COVID-19 patients with ischemic stroke are likely to develop acute signs compared to those without the disorder. This is due to large artery thrombosis and other conditions such as high blood pressure.
Mental and Physiological Impact
The mental status of a person is important since it influences one’s behavior. A patient infected with COVID-19 can be affected mentally by the virus. Health protocols of isolating the affected from loved ones directly impact others emotionally, socially, and physiologically. Human beings interact with one another in day-to-day life, and when separated, they may develop depression. Emotionally, an individual would need someone who can support their emotions, failure to which one may be affected. The process of being in quarantine is depressing, and the person may not be psychologically prepared and hence could develop mental disorders. Additionally, effects such as fear, anxiety, and disappointment are noted.4 A condition known as alexithymia may develop, which may reduce psychological functioning.4 This affects the cognitive and affective features of the brain hence changes in their moods.
Generally, the whole community develops the fear notion about the disease as it has caused many deaths. Patients who may have recovered risk being discriminated against and rejected and hence lowering their self-esteem. Young children and younger adults have lower chances of being infected because of their immunity as compared to the old. The segregation process also makes other people who may have shown symptoms isolate themselves at home.4 Under poor conditions for preventing the disease, these individuals may feel less important.
The Cardiovascular System
The Cardiovascular System consists of the heart, which contains closed vessels such as veins, capillaries, and arteries. The most vulnerable are patients with existing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, and other heart diseases.5 The myocardium of the heart can shelter the virus, or the germ can penetrate through the blood vessels resulting in myocardium injury and inflammation. This reduces the heartbeat rate, and in some severe cases, some patients collapse and die. The cardiac spectrum may develop a condition known as viral myocarditis. Its signs and symptoms are fatigue, chest pains, and breathing difficulties.5 When the condition becomes severe, it weakens the heart, and blood clots may form and lead to stroke. Viral myocarditis mainly affects the gastrointestinal system, and therefore, doctors must examine this condition in patients with COVID-19. Diabetes is another risky condition when it interacts with the virus as the chances of survival are very minimal. Diabetes is a type of disease that develops as a result of too much sugar in the blood.
The Blood System
The virus also affects the blood system as it can find its way to the blood components. Plasma is the blood component that contains antibodies that can recognize the presence of SARS-CoV-2. This is a single-stranded RNA virus that belongs to the family Coronaviridae. Humans infected with SARS-CoV-2 are at high risk of developing COVID-19.5 Treating patients with plasma at an early stage reduces the risk of getting infected. Procoagulants which are contained in blood plasma, have effects known in COVID-19. Transmitting blood plasma to other patients can cause harm and even allergic reactions. ARS-CoV-2 has developed distinct features that make it more effective for infection than SARS-CoV. It has a halo-like appearance containing multiple spike glycoproteins, consisting of homotrimers protruding far from the viral surface.5 The virus uses the spike S protein to engage its target cell receptor. It also has a furin binding site which is unique, making it easy to internalize into cells.
There is also a long-term effect of SARS on the human body system. Disability of physical function is a possible long-term effect.1 There is a noticeable muscle loss in the patients admitted to ICU, especially the older adults. This significant harm may continue even after discharge, and its effects may be felt in the future, such as difficulty in walking and climbing stairs. The white blood cells help in protecting the human body from infections. The increasing white blood cell count, granulocyte, and myeloid cell count in severe COVID-19 patients. A higher eosinophil percentage in white blood cells is associated with a higher risk of contracting the virus.6 The lymphocytes do not majorly count on the virus’s effect on the body due to their low count in the samples, the virus can also block the formation of the red blood cells. They are responsible for the transportation of oxygen to all parts of the body. Loss of erythrocytes leads to damage to blood vessels and brain neurons, leading to organ failures and hence death.
In summary, COVID-19 has immense effects on the human body in general and affects all body systems. Preventive measures include wearing masks, keeping social distance, and washing hands with running water and soap. Any client who develops early symptoms such as fever should visit the nearest health centers for a checkup and isolate themselves in quarantine for two weeks. However, various vaccines have been developed to protect individuals from contracting the virus which severely destroys the human body. It is quite apparent that patients can feel short-term and long-term effects. As the virus enters the body, several complications occur, and people may not notice it early as the effects are normally felt later.
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