By Apollo 24/7- 10 June 2020
COVID-19 is caused by the novel Coronavirus that is spreading across the world and is known to affect people, often causing mild to severe respiratory infections. While certain at-risk populations are more susceptible to developing complications resulting from COVID-19, experts say that people with chronic respiratory diseases might experience severe illness if they are diagnosed with this novel strain of coronavirus.
Respiratory diseases are some of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the world. Common chronic respiratory diseases include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD – including emphysema and chronic bronchitis), tuberculosis, and others.
COPD refers to a group of lung diseases that cause blockage in airflow and leads to difficulty in breathing. Smoking is one of the top causes of the development and progression of COPD. The other factors include exposure to air pollutants, genetic factors, and respiratory infections. Managing and preventing such respiratory illnesses is usually done by avoiding triggers (like air pollutants), quitting smoking, and getting vaccinated.
Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lung airways. It is usually triggered by air pollution, respiratory infections, and allergens such as dust mites, animal dander, pests, pollen, and mold. Asthma management includes avoidance of triggers, medications for symptoms, and vaccinations to prevent infections.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection of the lung which shows similar symptoms to COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the occurrence of COVID-19 and TB together may lead to higher risk and poorer outcomes.
Coronavirus is known to cause respiratory illness, and affected people may experience fever with sore throat, cough, and breathing difficulties. People with asthma or COPD are at the same risk to contract COVID-19 as any other person in their community, but the likelihood of them developing complications from COVID-19 is higher.
Based on the study from the National Institute of Health (NIH), it was confirmed that the risk of severe COVID-19 in COPD patients is four-fold higher than a person without COPD. When we analyzed the available data on asthma with COVID-19, there were mixed results. Few studies which were published by the NIH suggested that asthma patients had severe COVID-19 illness when compared to non-asthma patients. Few other studies found little difference in risk ratio for severe illness in both asthma and non-asthma patients. However, researchers recommended adhering to care plans to keep asthma under control for better COVID-19 outcomes.
People with chronic lung disease must take these extra precautions to control their respiratory conditions along with a few general steps to stay safe.
Current data suggests that people with pre-existing respiratory illnesses may have severe complications if they get infected with Coronavirus. Hence, it is recommended to follow hygiene precautions to reduce the risk of exposure. They must strictly follow the care plan recommended by their doctor that may include measuring vitals at home, taking medications and vaccinations.
People with respiratory illnesses should continue to take the vaccines recommended by their doctors as part of their care plan. These vaccinations may not help in preventing COVID-19 but can help people with pre-existing respiratory conditions to avoid severe reactions or illness. It is also important for them to stay connected to their doctor, consult them if they notice any symptoms or changes in their health, or for any medical emergency.
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Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, immunosuppression by steroids, mechanical ventilation, prolonged stay in ICU, etc. are believed to be triggering mucormycosis in COVID-19 patients.
A new strain of Coronavirus has been identified in the United Kingdom (UK) in December 2020 and is being referred to as VUI-202012/01 (the first ‘variant under investigation’ in December 2020). The virus is characterised by a set of 17 mutations.
Besides infections such as oropharyngeal candidiasis, pneumonia, etc., doctors have also reported several cases of a serious fungal infection called mucormycosis in COVID-infected patients.
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