Coronavirus update: Cytokine storm may help explain death toll


The numbers of deaths from coronaviruses reflect how difficult it is to make policy decisions based on predictive models. Take the death toll in the UK, for example. From Saturday to Monday, the death toll fell day by day, suggesting that social distancing measures are working. The past 24 hours, however, have seen the largest daily increase in the UK since the start of the pandemic.

This uncertainty not only makes political decisions difficult, but it also invites the question that many of us fear most: if I have to catch COVID-19, how much will it affect me?

There are, of course, a number of important factors to consider in answering this question, such as your general health.

However, research suggests an explanation for why some people react more severely to the pathogen.

It may also explain why apparently fit and healthy people died from complications from COVID-19.

READ MORE: Coronavirus symptoms: three less obvious signs that could mean you have COVID-19

This can help explain why young people died from the virus.

For example, in 2006, six healthy young men were left in intensive care with multiple organ failure following an uncontrolled immune response to cytokines in a pre-clinical trial of a new type of drug.

This reaction only occurred 90 minutes after receiving a dose of the drug.

It also offers a working theory explaining why statistics from China show that some people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, who were not known to have had previous medical conditions, also died from the disease.

Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk of getting COVID-19?

The most important thing is to stay home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The prescription of the policy is based on what is currently understood about COVID-19.

The virus spreads in droplets, like other respiratory infections, so it’s important to limit your contact with other people.

As the NHS explains, you should only leave your home for very limited purposes:

  • Purchases for basic necessities, such as food and medicine, which should be as scarce as possible
  • Some form of exercise per day, such as running, walking or biking – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, including to give blood, to avoid or escape the risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or help a vulnerable person
  • Travel for business purposes, but only when you cannot work from home

As the health website explains, these reasons are exceptions and, even while doing these activities, you should minimize the time spent outside the home.

It is also imperative to stand two meters from anyone outside your home.

There are also steps you can take to reduce the risk that you and anyone living with you will get coronavirus disease.

The NHS says to wash your hands with soap and water often – do it for at least 20 seconds.


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