Covid 19 also known as the newly discovered Coronavirus is an infectious disease. People infected with the virus will experience severe to mild symptoms. A large population of those infected do not require specialized treatment. People at a higher risk of developing severe Covid 19 symptoms are those with underlying conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and severe respiratory problems. The disease spreads through droplets from saliva and coughing. The best way to protect yourself and loved ones is by acquiring as much knowledge as you can about the disease.
Most people infected with Covid 19 don’t show any symptoms, commonly referred to asymptomatic. The most common symptoms are: dry cough, fever and tiredness. Other symptoms include aches and pains, sore throat, headache, conjunctivitis, diarrhoea and a rash on skin, or discoloration of fingers or toes. Persons with severe system have difficulty moving, chest pain or pressure and shortness of breath or difficult breathing. It takes an infected person between five and fourteen days to show symptoms.
COVID 19 and Persons With Existing Heart Conditions
People with cardiovascular disease are at a higher risk of getting severe symptoms when infected with coronavirus. Heart illnesses leave the heart with some problems which make the individual vulnerable to Covid 19:
- Blockage in blood vessels
- Damage to the heart muscles
- Weakening of the body’s immune system
Studies show that people with pre-existing heart conditions are more likely to acquire the coronavirus. They are also more vulnerable to the effects of the illness on the body. Fever, clotting disorders, high blood pressure and low oxygen levels are common among Covid 19 patients.
Persons with heart disease have poor metabolic health defined by conditions such as obesity and type two diabetes. These conditions increase the risk of blood clots and inflammation. When a person with a heart condition is infected with deadly covid infection, there is an increased risk of developing complications or succumbing to the illness.
Coronavirus and Heart Disease
One in four persons hospitalized with COVID- 19 (coronavirus) have sustained injuries to their heart. The evidence is seen in the levels of enzyme troponin in their blood samples. Out of these, a third of these victims have pre-existing heart conditions. COVID- 19 (coronavirus) damages the heart in different ways:
- The virus might invade the heart muscles causing inflammation to the heart muscles.
- COVID- 19 (coronavirus) virus interferes with the supply of oxygen to the heart muscles which might damage the heart
Inflammation of the heart muscles from the infection of COVID- 19 (coronavirus):
Most of the people infected with COVID- 19 (coronavirus) recover fully within a few weeks. One out of five of the infected population are develop pneumonia, and only 5% advance to severe symptoms. For those with severe infections, their bodies react by excessively producing cytokines which are released into the blood. The condition is known as cytokine storm which can be damaging to the heart and other major organs.
In some severe corona virus cases, the heart muscles get inflamed -a critical condition known as myocarditis. Inflammation of the heart muscles can either result from cytokine storm or when the virus invades the heart directly. The inflammation causes the heart to enlarge and weaken, and high blood pressure. It also affects the lungs leading to fluid accumulation. Some cases of the heart muscle inflammation are mild with only a few leading to complications and death. Three out of four persons who have recovered from corona virus have shown evidence of asymptomatic inflammation from their magnetic resonance imaging reports.
Deviation in the demand and supply of oxygen is damaging to the liver:
For corona virus patients, the infection and symptoms such as fever increase the heart rate which overworked the liver. A drop in the blood pressure may also overwork the heart. The heart gets damaged when overworked with conditions of low oxygen. The state is worse for persons with pre-existing heart conditions or instances of heart attack.
Most often heart attack occurs from the blockage of arteries from blood clots, or spasm, or formation of plague. corona virus increases the risk for heart attack. The inflammation increases the risk for the formation of blood clots and disrupts the lining of blood vessels. The inflamed lining of blood vessels is more susceptible to the formation of blood clots. Blood clots formed within vessels serving the heart affect the supply of oxygen and nutrients to that particular part. The increased clot formation can also affect the lungs. Blood clots formed within the lungs affect the functioning of the lungs which affects the oxygen levels in the blood.
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Role of CPR for COVID- 19 Victims
The coronavirus manifests in the respiratory system. At severe stages, the victims of the disease have difficulty in breathing or completely stop breathing (cardiopulmonary arrest). Immediate performance of CPR on the patient will be helpful as it will increase the chances of survival. However, studies show that CPR is a highly aerosol generating procedure.
When a person stops breathing, the heart is unable to pump blood to the rest of the body organs. The brain, which controls major body functions dies within minutes if the oxygen supply is cut off. The result is usually permanent brain damage or death. The human blood has enough oxygen to keep the person alive for close to an hour.
The performance of rescue breaths helps in supplying the victim with oxygen through the lungs wherever the individual has difficulty breathing of stops breathing all together. The procedure involves breathing directly into the victims mouth or nose. A barrier is commonly used in strangers and persons suffering from highly contagious infections. Though the rescue breaths are important, giving chest compressions until help arrives will be helpful.
However, CPR and rescue breaths alone cannot restore the heartbeat. The automated external defibrillator is applied to a cardiac arrest victim to deliver electric current to the heart.
The AED is used to revive cardiac arrest victims by delivering shocks to the heart which restore it’s normal functioning. Unlike the chest compressions, studies show that the use of the AED is less aerosol generating procedure. When the heart stops pumping blood, it undergoes some stages before it dies completely. For an individual experiencing cardiac arrest, the heart’s pace is either too fast, too slow, or irregular. The states classified as ventricular fibrillation, non perfusing ventricular tachycardia and asystole. The automated defibrillator has the capacity to detect if the heart sequence is shockable.
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Performing CPR to Children and Infants
The caretaker of children should always be on the watch out for children showing signs of the coronavirus. If a child or infant experiences difficulty in breathing, the caregiver should call for help and start on CPR within the shortest time possible. However, if untrained, the individual should rush the child to the hospital before he or she progresses into a cardiac arrest.
Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Kit for Covid Patients
The rescuer is advised to make use of personal protective equipment if accessible. Such include medical masks, gloves, face shield\googles, and protective gowns. After use, the personal protective equipment should be appropriately taken off and disposed of. Upon taking off the protective equipment, the rescuer should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Hygiene practices to prevent the spread of the COVID -19 virus. After performing the chest compressions, the rescuer should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Alternatively, the individual can make use of alcohol-based hand gel to sanitize their hands.
When performing CPR, first cover the victims mouth and nose with a piece of cloth or towel. Mechanical CPR devices should be used in place of manual devices as this will reduce the number of professionals required on attending to a specific patient. Before accessing the scene, all rescuers should wear the recommended PPE as per the institutional guidelines.
The decision whether or not to provide CPR is dependent on certain factors which determine the chances of survival of the victim such as the age of the victim, and underlying illnesses and health conditions. Every institution has their own guidelines on when to perform to stop performing CPR. During the ongoing pandemic, every victim should be treated with suspicion. You should never leave anything to chance when attending to a sick person since some victims of corona virus do not show any symptoms. Performing CPR can lead to transmission of coronavirus in various ways. The procedure involves teams working closely together and is highly aerosol generating. Cardiac arrest cases exert a lot of pressure on those involved and could lead to compromise to recommended standards.
Due to the prevalence of Covid 19, everyone is advised to get vaccinated whenever possible. The vaccine has been tested and proven safe for humans. The side effects which make most people shy away only last for a maximum of two days. Persons who have been infected by the virus are also advised to take the vaccine. If you are still unsure about the vaccine, it’s best to consult your health provider.
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