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How does COVID-19 affect the lungs?

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, infects the cells along the airways. It invades the cells in part by attaching to a specific cell receptor, called ACE-2, found on each cell. The virus uses ACE-2 as a doorway into the cell. The virus then takes over the cell’s ability to make copies of itself, and instead produces more copies of the virus to infect other cells.

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What are symptoms of COVID-19 affecting the lungs?

Some people may feel short of breath. People with chronic heart, lung, and blood diseases may be at risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, including pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and acute respiratory failure. Patients with severe problems breathing due to COVID-19 may require oxygen therapy, a ventilator, or other airway support.

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What health conditions may put me at higher risk for experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms?

People with chronic lung conditions have an increased risk for severe COVID-19 and pneumonia. These include:

Some chronic heart and blood conditions, diabetes, and obesity may also impact how COVID-19 affects the lungs. Check CDC’s page on higher risk groups for more information on existing medical conditions and COVID-19.

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What can I do to keep myself and others safe?

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from COVID-19. Wearing a mask indoors, washing your hands often, and staying at least 6 feet from other people can also help protect you and prevent possibly spreading the virus to others. The CDC provides up-to-date information on how to protect yourself and others.

In addition, consider:

Be sure to check these additional COVID-19 information sources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: