October 18, 2020

An 89-year-old woman in the Netherlands has become the first known person to die from catching COVID-19 twice, CNN reports. The woman notably had a compromised immune system due to therapy she was receiving for her rare bone marrow cancer, but researchers said her natural immune response still could have been "sufficient" enough to overcome the disease.

The woman was initially hospitalized for COVID-19 earlier this year, but released after five days with no symptoms except "some persisting fatigue." Fifty-nine days later, she once again tested positive for COVID-19, and no antibodies were detected in her blood; she died two weeks later.

The case is the first known in the world that a person has died after contracting COVID-19 for a second time. However, a number of people have now been confirmed to have contracted the disease more than once, leading to questions about the lasting endurance of immunity. Jeva Lange

May 11, 2020

There has been some confusion that COVID-19 is the 19th coronavirus disease, but the 19 refers to the year the new virus jumped to humans, 2019. In fact, "of the millions, perhaps billions, of coronaviruses, six were previously known to infect humans," The Washington Post reports.

Four cause colds that spread easily each winter, barely noticed. Another was responsible for the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome that killed 774 people in 2003. Yet another sparked the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012, which kills 34 percent of the people who contract it. But few do. SARS-CoV-2, the bad seed of the coronavirus family, is the seventh. It has managed to combine the infectiousness of its cold-causing cousins with some of the lethality of SARS and MERS. [The Washington Post]

"This is a virus that literally did not exist in humans six months ago," Geoffrey Barnes, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, told the Post. "We had to rapidly learn how this virus impacts the human body and identify ways to treat it literally in a time-scale of weeks."

But scientists do know that coronaviruses invade the body by breaking into ACE2 receptors, which regulate blood pressure and are plentiful in the lungs, intestines, and kidneys. And they suspect the "corona" — or spikes on the outside of the virus — in the COVID-19 virus are more effective at attaching to the receptors, making it easier for them to infiltrate the cells to replicate, as the Post explains in this video.

The coronavirus hijacking your cells "would be as if somebody walked into a car factory and snapped his fingers and said suddenly, 'You're making Twinkies!'" David Leib, chair of microbiology and immunology at Dartmouth College, told WGBH. "It takes the virus roughly 10 minutes to get inside that cell and then to begin its replication cycle," and within days "you are a walking bottle of virus."

The coronavirus had infected at least 4.1 million people around the world by early Monday, including 1.3 million in the U.S., and officially killed 282,727 people, including 79,528 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University's tally. Peter Weber

May 11, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Sunday that three New York children have died and 73 have become gravely ill with an inflammatory disease tied to COVID-19. The illness, pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, has symptoms similar to toxic shock or Kawasaki disease. Two of the children who died were of elementary school age, the third was an adolescent, and they were from three separate counties and had no known underlying health issues, said New York health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. Cases have been reported in several other states.

New York City health officials warned about the disease last week, but health providers were alerted on May 1 after hearing of reports from Britain, The New York Times reports. Symptoms have included prolonged high fever, racing hearts, rash, and severe abdominal pain. Dr. David Reich, president of Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, said the five cases his hospital treated started with gastrointestinal issues and progressed to very low blood pressure, expanded blood pressure, and in some cases, heart failure. "We were all thinking this is a disease that kills old people, not kids," he told The Washington Post. Cuomo made a similar point.

It isn't just children struggling with arterial inflammation. In fact, for a virus originally believed to primarily destroy the lungs, COVID-19 also "attacks the heart, weakening its muscles and disrupting its critical rhythm," the Post reports. "It savages kidneys so badly some hospitals have run short of dialysis equipment. It crawls along the nervous system, destroying taste and smell and occasionally reaching the brain. It creates blood clots that can kill with sudden efficiency."

Many scientists now believe coronavirus wreaks havoc in the body through some combination of an attack on blood vessels, possibly the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels, and "cytokine storms," when the immune system goes haywire. "Our hypothesis is that COVID-19 begins as a respiratory virus and kills as a cardiovascular virus," Dr. Mandeep Mehra at Harvard Medical School tells the Post. Read more about the different ways COVID-19 attacks the body at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

May 3, 2020

60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl revealed on Sunday night that she was hospitalized after becoming infected with the coronavirus.

"After two weeks at home in bed, weak, fighting pneumonia, and really scared, I went to the hospital," she said. "I found an overworked, nearly overwhelmed staff." Stahl praised the doctors and nurses who treated her, saying each one was "kind, sympathetic, gentle, and caring from the moment I arrived until the moment days later when I was wheeled out through a gauntlet of cheering medical workers. In the face of so much death, they celebrate their triumphs." 

These health care workers are "fulfilling a mission" and "answering the call," Stahl said, and because of them, "I am well now. Tonight, we all owe them our gratitude, our admiration, and in some cases, our lives." Catherine Garcia

March 19, 2020

Home testing company Everlywell plans to start offering a COVID-19 coronavirus test starting March 23, Time reports. The company sells dozens of lab tests to consumers to allow them to check cholesterol levels, fertility, and infectious diseases, including STDs. Customers will be able to order the kits from the company's website. Buyers will have to answer a series of questions about their health, symptoms, and risk factors. A prescription is required, so a telemedicine doctor from PWNHealth will review customers' answers to determine whether they qualify for testing. The availability of home tests could help identify more cases after an initial shortage of tests as the outbreak spread in the United States. Harold Maass

March 15, 2020

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. surged past 3,000 on Sunday, with at least 61 deaths, according to CDC and government data. Across the country, several cities and states announced further measures to limit the spread of the disease, including the closure of restaurants, bars, and nightlife venues. New York City Public Schools, the nation's largest school district, announced that all schools would be closed starting Monday. Meanwhile at the White House, President Trump claimed the government had "tremendous control" over the situation.

Internationally, Italy saw its deadliest day since the outbreak began, with 368 new deaths reported Sunday, bringing the country's total death toll from COVID-19 to more than 1,800. Other countries in Europe, including France, Germany, and Spain all announced harsher social distancing policies and immigration controls in response to sharply rising case numbers. Bryan Maygers

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