Video shows how coronavirus spreads through the lungs of otherwise healthy people

A new video illustrates the way Covid-19 wreaks havoc on the lungs of otherwise healthy individuals. 

The video, created by George Washington University Hospital in Washington DC, shows the lungs of a man who – until a few days prior – had been asymptomatic as the virus spread damages his lungs. 

Using 3D imagery, the video shows the lungs of a 59-year-old man whose only underlying condition is high blood pressure and the spread of damage throughout caused by the virus. 

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Speaking to CNN, Dr Keith Mortman, chief of thoracic surgery at the hospital, said the man now requires a ventilator to help him breath and another machine that helps oxygenate his blood. 

“This is not a 70, 80-year-old immunosuppressed, diabetic patient,” Mr Mortman said. “Other than high blood pressure, he has no other significant medical issues. This is a guy who’s minding his own business and gets it … if we were to repeat the 360VR images now, that is one week later, there is a chance that the infection and inflammatory process could be worse.”

During the video, portions of the man’s lung that are inflamed and infected are represented by a yellow colour. Rather than being restricted to a specific part of his lungs, the yellow is spread throughout, indicating the virus can move rapidly. 

As inflammation spreads throughout the lungs as the organ attempts to isolate the disease, it becomes more difficult for the lungs to send oxygen into the blood and to filter out carbon dioxide, leading to respiratory problems. 

“For these patients who essentially present in progressive respiratory failure, the damage to the lungs is rapid and widespread. Unfortunately, once damaged to his degree, the lungs can take a long time to heal,” Mr Mortman said. “For approximately 2 to 4 percent of patients with Covid-19, the damage is irreversible and they will succumb to the disease.”

Mr Morton said the man was still in critical condition at the hospital. 

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“I want people to see this and understand what this can do. People need to take this seriously,” Mr Mortman said. 

The video was made using CT imaging tools that are generally used in cancer screenings. Mr Mortman said they used the technology to gather as much information as possible on the virus. 

“A lot of us, we are walking in the dark with this,” he said. “So we want to understand it as best we can. This was our first patient, but I am sure he is the first of what will likely become many in the coming weeks.”

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