The symptoms section of this article was updated on May 19, 2020.
Coronaviruses typically affect the respiratory system, causing symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. Some people, including older adults, are at risk of severe illness from these viruses.
Coronaviruses are present in many species of animals, such as camels and bats. Mutations of the virus can infect humans.
Previous outbreaks of diseases that coronaviruses have caused in humans have been severe. They typically spread rapidly and can cause death in some people.
The outbreak of the disease known as COVID-19 is the result of the novel coronavirus, now renamed SARS-CoV-2, that has spread rapidly across many parts of the world.
This article will discuss how coronaviruses affect the body, possible complications, and treatments.
Viruses work by hijacking cells in the body. They enter host cells and reproduce. They can then spread to new cells around the body.
Coronaviruses mostly affect the respiratory system, which is a group of organs and tissues that allow the body to breathe.
Respiratory illnesses affect different parts of this respiratory system, such as the lungs. A coronavirus typically infects the lining of the throat, airways, and lungs.
Early symptoms of coronavirus may include coughing or shortness of breath. In some cases, it can cause severe damage to the lungs.
For example, some people might develop acute respiratory distress syndrome, leading to severe breathing difficulties.
Usually, the immune system will identify and respond to coronavirus early by sending special proteins, or antibodies, to fight the infection.
The immune response to infection has side effects for the body, including fever. During an infection, white blood cells release pyrogens, a substance that causes fever.
A temperature of greater than 100.4°F from an oral thermometer indicates a fever.
Sometimes other symptoms will occur alongside a fever, including:
These symptoms will usually last until the body fights off the coronavirus.
Symptoms might not show up straightaway. For example, people with COVID-19 may get symptoms 2 to 14 days after infection.
Coronavirus can have severe complications, such as pneumonia.
Pneumonia occurs if the virus causes infection of one or both lungs. The tiny air sacs inside the lungs can fill with fluid or pus, making it harder to breathe.
Coronavirus can also damage the heart, liver, or kidneys. In some people, it will affect the blood and immune system. For example, COVID-19 can cause heart, renal, or multiple organ failure, resulting in death.
Some people are more at risk of severe complications than others. The risk can increase for those with an underlying health condition, such as:
- heart disease
- lung disease
Older adults are also at risk of severe illness from coronavirus. Other groups at risk include:
- people with HIV
- pregnant women
- people with asthma
Antiviral drugs are a common method of treating viruses. These drugs kill or prevent the spread of viruses through cells in the body. However, there are currently no antiviral drugs for treating coronavirus.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers around the world are now working on new treatments and vaccines for coronavirus.
Treatment is not always necessary if symptoms are mild. If a person has no risk factors that affect the respiratory or immune systems, their body may successfully fight the infection without medication or intervention.
In more severe cases, treatment in hospitals could include ventilators to support breathing. Antibiotics might help reduce the risk of bacterial pneumonia.
Coronavirus effects on the body include respiratory symptoms and signs of infection, such as coughing, fever, and fatigue.
In some people, coronaviruses can cause severe illness. Factors that affect the risk include:
- older age
- underlying health conditions, such as diabetes
People at risk of severe illness should seek immediate medical attention for signs of COVID-19. These include:
- sudden cough
- high temperature
- shortness of breath