“It first struck me how different it was when I saw my first coronavirus patient go bad. I was like, Holy shit, this is not the flu. Watching this relatively young guy, gasping for air, pink frothy secretions coming out of his tube.”
A Medical Worker Describes Terrifying Lung Failure From COVID-19 — Even in His Young Patients
March 21, 2020
ProPublica – As of Friday, Louisiana was reporting 479 confirmed cases of COVID-19, one of the highest numbers in the country. Ten people had died.
The majority of cases are in New Orleans, which held Mardi Gras celebrations just two weeks before its first patient, with more than a million revelers on its streets.
I spoke to a respiratory therapist there, whose job is to ensure that patients are breathing well. He works in a medium-sized city hospital’s intensive care unit.
Before the virus, his days were pretty relaxed, nebulizing patients with asthma, adjusting oxygen tubes that run through the nose or, in the most severe cases, setting up and managing ventilators. His patients were usually older, with chronic health conditions and bad lungs.
Since last week, he’s been running ventilators for the sickest COVID-19 patients. Many are relatively young, in their 40s and 50s, and have minimal, if any, preexisting conditions in their charts.
He is overwhelmed, stunned by the manifestation of the infection, both its speed and intensity. The ICU where he works has essentially become a coronavirus unit.
He estimates that his hospital has admitted dozens of confirmed or presumptive coronavirus patients. About a third have ended up on ventilators.
His hospital had not prepared for this volume before the virus first appeared. One physician had tried to raise alarms, asking about negative pressure rooms and ventilators. Most staff concluded that he was overreacting.
“They thought the media was overhyping it,” the respiratory therapist told me. “In retrospect, he was right to be concerned.”
He spoke to me by phone on Thursday about why, exactly, he has been so alarmed:
“Reading about it in the news, I knew it was going to be bad, but we deal with the flu every year so I was thinking: Well, it’s probably not that much worse than the flu. But seeing patients with COVID-19 completely changed my perspective, and it’s a lot more frightening.” Read more.
No, Coronavirus Isn’t ‘Just Like The Flu’. Here Are The Very Important Differences
AFP – Aches and pains, sore throat, fever – although they may feel similar to those suffering from their symptoms, the novel coronavirus is not the same as the seasonal flu, experts stressed Wednesday.
While this is not the same as its mortality rate, given many people may be infected but not realise it, it is significantly higher than seasonal flu, which typically kills 0.1 percent of patients.
“There is still considerable uncertainty around the fatality rates of COVID-19 and it likely varies depending on the quality of local healthcare,” said Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology at University College London.
“That said, it is around two percent on average, which is about 20 times higher than for the seasonal flu lineages currently in circulation.”
But the true danger of coronavirus is unlikely to be the death toll. Experts say health systems could easily become overwhelmed by the number of cases requiring hospitalisation – and, often ventilation to support breathing.
An analysis of 45,000 confirmed cases in China, where the epidemic originated, show that the vast majority of deaths were among the elderly (14.8 percent mortality among over 80s).
But another Chinese study showed that 41 percent of serious cases occurred among under 50s, compared with 27 percent among over 65s.
“It’s true that if you’re older you’re at greater risk, but serious cases can also happen in relatively young people with no prior conditions,” said French deputy health minister Jerome Salomon.
Disease experts estimate that each COVID-19 sufferer infects between two to 3 others.
That’s a reproduction rate up to twice as high as seasonal flu, which typically infects 1.3 new people for each patient.
Salomon said that humans have lived with influenza for more than 100 years.
“We’ve studied it closely,” he said. “This new virus resembles the flu in terms of physical symptoms but there are huge differences.”
Number one is the lack of a vaccine against COVID-19, or even any treatment shown to be consistently effective.
While some trials have shown promise delivering anti-retroviral drugs to serious cases, as well as some experimental therapies, their sample sizes are too small to roll out to the general population … Read more.