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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:
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Pulmonary hypertension
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 is NHLBI doing to support research on how COVID-19 affects the lungs?
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.
- How Breathing Activates the Lung’s Defenses Against COVID-19
- Smoking associated with increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes
- Study identifies immune pathways activated in severe COVID-19 infection
- Lung cell prototypes enhance COVID-19 research
- Arterial wall cells offer insight into coronavirus’ rampage from head to toe
- Researchers create COPD registry for COVID-19
- Researchers discover culprit in deadline COVID-19 lung inflammation
- Dilated blood vessels in the lung provides possible explanation for low oxygen levels in severe COVID-19 cases
- Researchers map SARS-CoV-2 in the respiratory tract
- Sticky, net-like substance may cause life-threatening clotting in lungs of COVID-19 patients
- COVID-19 damages lung blood vessels
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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: