What happens when you catch coronavirus? The Telegraph’s Global Health Security Editor Paul Nuki explains all the ways in which you could become infected with COVID-19 and how your body reacts to this virus.
What happens when the virus enters the body?
When the virus enters your body it binds to two cells in the lungs – goblet cells that produce mucus and cilia cells which have hairs on them and normally prevent your lungs filling up with debris and fluid such as virus and bacteria and particles of dust and pollen.
The virus attacks these cells and starts to kill them – so your lungs begin to fill with fluid making it hard for you to breathe. This phase of the disease is thought to last about a week.
At this point your immune system will start to kick in and fight off the invaders. You will develop a fever and your high body temperature will create a hostile environment for the virus. You will start to get rid of the mucus in the form of coughing and a runny nose.
But in some people – particularly the elderly and those with other health conditions – the immune system can go into overdrive. As well as killing the virus it also starts to kill healthy cells.
This heightened immune response can trigger a “cytokine storm” – white blood cells activate a variety of chemicals that can leak into the lungs, which along with the attack on the cells damages them even further. Scans of the lungs show “ground-glass” opacity and then “crazy paving” patterns, as they fill with mucus making it harder and harder to breathe.