COVID-19 is like three different diseases, says New York doctor, from flu-like illness to severe reactions and rare children’s syndrome

COVID-19 is like three different diseases, says New York doctor, from flu-like illness to severe reactions and rare children’s syndrome, by the ABC.

Almost 10 weeks into the pandemic, COVID-19 is continuing to surprise and baffle health experts.

In fact, experts’ picture of exactly how COVID-19 might play out in the body is now quite different to what was thought as little as a few weeks ago, with some experts saying it could be better described as three different diseases.

We have known for a while that the mild to moderate form of the disease — a flu-like illness with fever, muscle aches and respiratory symptoms, or often no symptoms at all — is almost like “child’s play” compared to the major damage to organs like the the lungs, heart, brain, and kidneys seen when COVID-19 becomes severe.

Umesh Gidwani, head of cardiac intensive care at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, say s… “[Severe disease] is almost a completely different animal [compared] to someone who is recovering at home with some chicken soup and paracetamol”.

And now it seems there is evidence of a third variation in illness that can occur following exposure to the virus — a mysterious new disease given the name paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, with an entirely different set of symptoms again.

The syndrome seems to only affect children, unlike both mild and severe COVID-19, which mostly affect adults. … Symptoms may include fever, swollen hands and feet, a red rash that can occur on the skin around the lips and eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting, resembling a rare condition called Kawasaki disease, thought to be triggered by infections. …

It is now clear the symptoms experienced by people with severe COVID-19 are largely caused by the body’s disordered immune response to the virus rather than the virus itself, Dr Gidwani says. …

An immune attack on blood vessels potentially explains many of the key dangerous features of both conditions, says Dr Kovacic, who is Professor of Medicine and Cardiology both at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute at the University of NSW. …

“It is a very, very, scary virus.”

Dr Gidwani agrees. Australians should “thank God” they have not seen the devastation he has witnessed in New York.

Focusing on death rates misses a bigger health picture, which is still unclear. Focusing only on death rates also muddies up the picture of the spread of the disease and the effect of lockdowns.