Have you heard of Nick Cordero? The Broadway musical theater actor just died from Coronavirus infection. He was young, healthy and athletic until he caught COVID-19 and spent 90 days hospitalized with lung damage, strokes and other severe problems.
COVID-19 is a disease you really want to avoid, but it’s getting harder to do that as it spreads out of control. Antiviral treatments and vaccines are being developed and those will help, but not immediately.
The most effective strategy available right now to avoid infection is wearing a mask and social distancing. Yet many people have chosen to not follow these recommendations. The question is why?
The reasons vary but part of the answer is that some, particularly the young, view COVID-19 as just a bad respiratory infection like the flu. They’ve decided that it’s worth suffering through the disease instead of giving up their active and fun social lives.
For others the precautions are considered an infringement on their rights and freedom.
Whatever the reason, ignoring the guidelines may end up being a very bad decision. The case of Nick Cordero sadly illustrates why.
This disease is not the flu, and the more we learn about it the worse it gets. Some people, including those young and healthy like Nick, who catch COVID-19 will die. Others may survive but never fully recover.
There is mounting evidence that this virus infects a wide range of tissues beyond the lungs, including the heart, nervous system, pancreas, liver, kidneys, blood vessels and GI tract, and more.
Coronavirus harm to these other infected tissues can be extremely serious. Damage to the kidneys can put people on dialysis. Damage to the heart can limit people’s lifestyle similarly to a heart attack. Damage to blood vessels can lead to clots and strokes, along with the significant medical consequences to the organs affected by the clots.
Since strokes occur in the brain this includes cognitive effects. Damage to the pancreas can cause loss of insulin-secreting cells and result in Type 1 diabetes. Therefore, those infected with Coronavirus are at risk of becoming diabetics who will need daily insulin injections.
The point here is that we still don’t know a lot about the COVID-19 disease. We don’t know how prevalent these complications will be in those infected, or how long they might last. The fear is that some complications could last a lifetime.
It’s not the flu. It’s much worse.
There’s lots of uncertainty associated with this pandemic, but some things are clear. Infections are widespread and growing in Georgia.
As Dahlonega is a popular tourist town we will undoubtedly have asymptomatic but virus-positive visitors.
Those wearing masks will be much less likely to spread or catch COVID-19, especially while indoors.
Some fraction of those who catch the disease, and who wouldn’t have if they’d worn a mask and/or distanced, may die or suffer life-long health consequences.
The bad news is it could be you.
The good news is you can still prevent it.
Barry Yedvobnick, Ph.D, is a professor of biology at Emory University who recently relocated to Dahlonega and is a regular contributor to The Nugget.