Doctors Investigate Known and Unknown Symptoms of Coronavirus

"This is nothing like a garden variety case of pneumonia"

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As the number of local coronavirus cases increases, so does doctors' knowledge about the disease and its symptoms.

There are the main symptoms -- the ones that make up the criteria to get tested, are cough, shortness of breath and a fever -- but now there are reports of other symptoms, and a new 3D look at what the infection does to the body.

Dr. Keith Mortman, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at George Washington University Hospital made a virtual reality video showing the damage done to the lungs of an actual 59-year-old patient who's in critical condition with COVID-19.

"What we’re seeing is that there was rapid and progressive damage to the lungs so that he needed higher levels of support from that ventilator and it got to the point where he needed maximal support from the ventilator,” Mortman said in an interview for the hospital’s podcast, HealthCast.

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In the podcast, Mortman said that about 20% of those who contract COVID-19 develop symptoms and a portion of those develop severe symptoms that ultimately require mechanical assistance to breathe.

NBC 5 asked Dallas infectious disease expert, Dr. Edward Dominguez, to put this information into perspective.

"Anytime there is an infection of the lung, there is only a certain number of ways the lung can respond. Unfortunately, the way the lungs responds to to this infection is about the worst way it can respond. It causes inflammation and fluid build-up within multiple areas of the lung," Dominguez said.

"This is nothing like a garden variety case of pneumonia."

Doctors said it's too early to know if there is long-term damage caused by coronavirus.

For many, the illness is mild and for others, doctors say the first phase is more like a slow burn, with moderate symptoms for several days, before they worsen quickly.

In addition to the well-known COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, headache and shortness of breath, doctors now say some patients may lose their sense of smell and taste, leading to even more questions about the novel virus.

"Could there be more than one strain of COVID-19? Yes," Dominguez said.

"Could it be mutating and changing before our very eyes? The answer to that is unlikely, but also yes, theoretically, because this is the largest of all the viruses that cause respiratory disease in humans. It has the most genetic material and that means it can mutate faster and change faster than even the influenza viruses."

The loss of smell or taste appears to be temporary in the patients who reported those symptoms.

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