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What we now know about the coronavirus that we didn't 3 weeks ago

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Posted at 2:57 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 15:03:50-04

(WXYZ) — As coronavirus cases and deaths continue to climb, scientists around the globe are hard at work, discovering more and more about this highly contagious virus. So what do we now know about COVID-19, that we didn’t just a mere three weeks ago?

Science has uncovered a lot about the virus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19. So it’s not surprising that information about it evolves and changes. And one thing new research has shown is that people with asthma are not being hit as hard as expected.

Based on New York data, asthmatics are only accounting for roughly 5 percent of fatal cases. In fact, asthma didn’t even make New York’s top 10 list of chronic health conditions that people had when they passed from the virus. So what conditions actually made that list? Well, I’m about to tell you and they’re listed in descending order. Off the top is

- Hypertension, followed by
- diabetes
- high cholesterol
- coronary artery disease
- dementia
- atrial fibrillation
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- renal disease
- cancer
- congestive heart failure

Now other research has linked obesity to severe coronavirus disease, especially for young adults. And we’re unfortunately emerging data is showing that African Americans and Hispanic Americans are being hit much harder than other racial groups. So anyone who falls into these categories really needs to be extra vigilant when it comes to protective measures like hand washing and social distancing.

What have we learned about how easily this virus spreads?

We know that the virus can spread by an infected person coughing and sneezing. But research now suggests that just talking and breathing may also be a mode of transmission. And that aerosolized coronavirus particles can potentially hang in the air for up to three hours. Also, past research involving a cough chamber found that if a cough was not covered, it could potentially travel 6 feet in about 3 seconds. Now researchers aren’t sure that the coronavirus can travel that same rate and distance but an interdisciplinary research team is about to study this. So it’s really important for everyone to wear a face mask. Then, when we speak, cough or just breathe, the mask will help keep our salvia and potential germs from traveling. Which will can then help decrease the spread of the virus.

What about some of the promising drugs we’ve heard about? What can you share?

We’ve heard a lot about chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, both good and bad. One chloroquine trial in Brazil ended early because several patients died. A high dose of the drug was linked to arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat. As for hydroxychloroquine, some reports have indicated it may be effective. We’re waiting to hear results from an ongoing trial that is currently taking place at the National Institutes of Health. Another experimental drug, Remdesivir has shown to be highly effective so far. One particular study showed that 17 of 30 patients with COVID-19 were actually taken off life-support machines. But again, we need more clinical trials to make sure the drug is safe and effective. Lastly, the FDA recently approved a small clinical trial using placenta stem cells aimed at improving lung inflammation in patients with severe disease. So there is a lot happening and our scientific community is definitely very hard at work. And I fully believe that we’ll be able to successfully beat this coronavirus.

Is your belly making you blue? Join Dr. Partha Nandi, MD and guest Gabby D'Auria who shares how poor gut health didn't just lead to indigestion, but depression too. You’ll also hear from a Nutritional Biochemist who explains what exactly is going on in your gut and ways to improve your stomach and your mood! Tune in this Sunday, April 19th at 1 pm to learn all about the Gut Brain Connection.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

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View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

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See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.