Summary

The Covid-19 epidemic first appeared in the city of Wuhan, China. Initially, it seemed to be only a local problem, but very quickly the disease spread practically all over the world. According to WHO data, as of February 5, 2021, 103,989,900 cases and 2,260,259 deaths of patients with confirmed infection have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic. In some cases, the infection is asymptomatic or the symptoms are minor.

With mild to moderately severe course, the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of the flu. In the case of COVID-19, patients complain of a loss of smell and taste much more often than in the case of the flu.

With severe course, inflammation and lung failure appear, often life-threatening and requiring connection of the patient to a ventilator and the use of oxygen therapy. The coronavirus-caused COVID-19 disease has a mortality rate of 3-4%. In the case of COVID-19 infection, a series of complications that significantly worsen the prognosis or may occur even several months after recovery. These patients reported a variety of non-specific general symptoms, respiratory, cardiovascular, tract, musculoskeletal, and sometimes neurological and psychiatric symptoms.

Since February 2020, when the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease – 2019) pandemic appeared in Europe and the United States, a number of conspiracy theories have emerged. Their authors either denied the fact of the pandemic itself or blamed the pharmaceutical industry, Microsoft, Google, the sensationalist media etc., not excluding freemasons and cyclists, of course.

So let’s look at the facts. The Covid-19 epidemic first appeared in the city of Wuhan, China. Initially, it seemed to be only a local problem, but very quickly the disease spread practically all over the world.

According to WHO data, as of February 5, 2021, 103,989,900 cases and 2,260,259 deaths of patients with confirmed infection have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic. These numbers are constantly growing, and no one knows how long this pandemic will continue. So far, there are no signs of its approaching end. The above data shows that the scale of this pandemic, both in terms of the number of cases and deaths, is much greater than that of the usual, seasonal flu.

The scale of the incidence can only be compared with the Spanish pandemic, which decimated the world’s population after World War I in 1918-1920. A conservative estimate is 500 million infected and 30-50 million fatalities. Remember, however, that this epidemic broke out shortly after the end of the 5-year war that devastated Europe, affecting the population of people already very weakened by long-term malnutrition or even starvation, as well as other diseases spreading both among civilians and frontline soldiers. Moreover, the cause of this pandemic was not known at that time (their physical nature was not discovered until the 1930s with the construction of the electron microscope). Such factors also had a major impact on the high mortality rate, the lack of proven treatments and the generally disastrous condition of hospitals and access to them.

COVID-19 symptoms and course

In some cases (because tests are not performed in asymptomatic patients, we do not know exactly what percentage) the infection is asymptomatic or the symptoms are so slight that they can be easily overlooked.

With mild to moderately severe course, the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of the flu. During the infection, there is usually a high fever, general weakness, and muscle pain. In the case of COVID-19, patients complain of a loss of smell and taste much more often than in the case of the flu.

With severe course, inflammation and lung failure appear, often life-threatening and requiring connection of the patient to a ventilator and the use of oxygen therapy. The need for hospitalization and the use of respiratory and oxygen support occurs in about 5% of patients.

Coronavirus-caused COVID-19 has a mortality rate of 3-4%, while seasonal flu has a much lower risk of death at 0.1-0.5%.

Complications

In the case of COVID-19 infection, a series of complications that significantly worsen the prognosis or may occur even several months after recovery.

Once the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters the body, it causes an immune system response, as is the case with other microorganisms. Normally, when the immune system works according to the pattern acquired through evolution, the virus that has entered the body is eliminated.

However, in about 5% of the cases, the body’s response does not follow a standard pattern. The immune cells then react by producing too many cytokines (proteins that affect the growth, proliferation and excitation of cells involved in the immune response), leading to symptoms known as “cytokine storms” and described in other medical conditions. It is this unrestrained immune response that is responsible for the development of severe, potentially fatal complications such as multi-organ damage, blood clots, heart damage, organ failure, and the aforementioned Acute Respiratory Syndrome. This reaction has hardly been reported in patients experiencing the seasonal flu.

The situation is further aggravated by the fact that there is insufficient access to vaccines and those that are available are not really fully tested, for example in terms of their effectiveness against emerging coronavirus mutations.

Preliminary studies show that approximately 10-20% of COVID-19 patients report long-term malaise lasting more than three weeks and failure to fully recover. These patients reported a variety of non-specific symptoms such as:

• general (increased temperature, pain, fatigue)

• on the part of the respiratory system (cough, shortness of breath)

• cardiovascular (pressure and pain in the chest, palpitations),

• on the gastrointestinal side (abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, appetite disorders), on the musculoskeletal side (pain in the muscles, joint pain)

• neurological and psychiatric (depression, anxiety, impaired concentration and memory, headaches, sleep disorders, dizziness, sometimes in the elderly, delirium)

There were also isolated reports of cases of hair loss.

This also applied to young patients, without any additional disease burden, who had only a mild infection.

At the moment, it is far too early to explicitly list and describe all complications after COVID-19 infection and assess their impact on the future health of survivors.

In general, the key differences between COVID-19 infection and seasonal flu are as follows:

1. Lack of herd immunity (the infection appeared recently and there was too little time for such immunity to occur in the population)

2. Higher mortality (3-4% vs. 0.1 – 0.5%)

3. More severe course of the disease and more serious complications after COVID-19

4. Lack of enough proven vaccines and proven effective treatments

It should be noted that the above information is incomplete. The pandemic is still going on and it is not very much in sight. Therefore, it is not known what still awaits us.

AUTHOR: Dr n. farm. Andrzej Tarasiuk