“We thought this was only a respiratory virus. Turns out, it goes after the pancreas. It goes after the heart. It goes after the liver, the brain, the kidney and other organs. We didn’t appreciate that in the beginning,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California.
In addition to respiratory distress, patients with COVID-19 can experience blood clotting disorders that can lead to strokes, and extreme inflammation that attacks multiple organ systems. The virus can also cause neurological complications that range from headache, dizziness and loss of taste or smell to seizures and confusion.
And recovery can be slow, incomplete and costly, with a huge impact on quality of life.
The broad and diverse manifestations of COVID-19 are somewhat unique, said Dr. Sadiya Khan, a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.
With influenza, people with underlying heart conditions are also at higher risk of complications, Khan said. What is surprising about this virus is the extent of the complications occurring outside the lungs.