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.
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.
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.
NHLBI-funded research aims to understand and address risk factors for the disease, develop prevention and treatment strategies, and find ways to speed up and improve recovery.
We should all take steps to protect ourselves and others from infection by getting a COVID-19 vaccine, washing hands often, avoiding crowded places, wearing a mask, and staying at least 6 feet from other people. In addition, consider:
In addition, be sure to check these additional COVID-19 information sources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: