AS coronavirus infections continue to ramp up in the US, a doctor who has been studying lung disease for 15 years has warned of a looming health crisis that could overshadow the virus in the long run.
Dr. Sassan Rafi, who has carried out extensive research into crippling pulmonary fibrosis, one of the conditions now linked to COVID-19 patients, claims thousands of Americans hospitalized with the virus face a ticking time bomb even after they recover.
The US currently has more than 2.9million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 130,000 Americans have died of the virus.
New cases have rocked southern and western cities setting record levels in states such as Arizona, Texas, California and Florida.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disease that occurs when lung tissue is damaged and scarred and is caused by aggressive viruses like COVID-19.
The disease thickens, stiff tissue making it more difficult for your lungs to work properly and exchange oxygen and can lead to respiratory failure.
Dr. Rafi, said that many hospitalized patients, even if they appear to make a full recovery from COVID-19 related illness, could still die due to fibrosis.
“Pulmonary fibrosis has a prognosis of three years, which is worse than many cancers and currently there is no optimal treatment,” he said.
He said that even if a patient survives hospitalization and overcomes having fluid in their lungs for many weeks, that can still lead to lingering effects such as fibrosis.
“So what we do is scan the lungs and if we see fibrosis in the lungs that tells us that their lives may not come back. That’s the point of no return.”
“It’s a progressive disease, meaning you may be feeling okay, but the fibrosis keeps getting worse and worse that’s one area, no one is addressing,” Dr. Rafi added.
Dr. Rafi said some patients may have to be dependent on a ventilator for the rest of their lives, while others may need a lung transplant.
On Tuesday, the US’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the nation was still “knee-deep” in the first wave of the virus.
Fauci said unlike many countries in the European Union, the number of new cases in the US never came down to a “baseline.”
“If you look at the graphs from Europe, the European Union as an entity, it went up and then came down to the baseline,” he said during a web interview with National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins.
“Now they’re having little blips, as you might expect, as they try to reopen. We went up, never came down to baseline, and now we’re surging back up.”
He added that the recent surge is a “serious situation that we have to address immediately.”
The US set a new one-day record of cases last week, with more than 55,000 reported on Thursday.