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Scientists continue to learn more about the coronavirus and its respiratory illness, COVID-19. According to scientists interviewed in an Elemental article, the illness might actually be a blood vessel disease, not a respiratory one.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Now that 6 million people globally have had the disease, medical professionals are gathering new data on symptoms. Other symptoms identified in COVID-19 patients include skin issues, brain swelling, heart attacks, blood cuts and digestive issues. These point to vascular-related symptoms.

Based on these symptoms, a new hypothesis has emerged that COVID-19 might be vascular, or “vasculotropic virus,” one that affects blood vessels. Specifically, coronavirus might target endothelial cells that line blood vessels. This might help explain why those with diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Respiratory viruses affecting blood cells are “virtually unheard of.”

“If you start to put all of the data together that’s emerging, it turns out that this virus is probably a vasculotropic virus, meaning that it affects the [blood vessels],” says Mandeep Mehra, MD, medical director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center, “The concept that’s emerging is that this is not a respiratory illness alone, this is a respiratory illness to start with, but it is actually a vascular illness that kills people through its involvement of the vasculature.”

Read more about protecting yourself from coronavirus. Check the CDC website for more information on how to protect yourself and check our latest article to learn how COVID-19 differs from the flu.

Scientists believe that the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, started at an exotic animal market in Wuhan, China. You can help stop the incidence of viruses like these by signing this petition to ban the wildlife trade.

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