Doctors: Battling virus 'has definitely been challenging'

Randy Griffith, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·2 min read

Mar. 3—Doctors and scientists have learned a lot about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 as the COVID-19 pandemic has raged around the world, but there are still many unknowns.

Dr. Elizabeth Klings, associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Center at Boston Medical Center, said she is seeing healthy young adults battling respiratory symptoms for weeks or months after otherwise recovering from COVID-19.

"They seem to eventually get better. It just takes longer than you would think after being sick for about a week," Klings said during Tuesday's installment of COVID Questions virtual town hall.

The rapid onset of symptoms is another factor that's unusual for the illness, compared to other viruses, she said.

"This has definitely been challenging for us.," she said.

Klings was joined on the virtual panel by Dr. Devanshu Verma, an assistant professor of medicine in the rheumatology division at West Virginia University who completed his internal medicine residency at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.

Verma explained how the virus affects so many different organs. He compared it to a band of robbers who are first located in one neighborhood, but go into other areas as the police — which he compared to the body's immune system — give chase.

Responding to questions about differences in the three vaccines available, both doctors said there is little to recommend one over the other.

"Whichever vaccine is available to you is the right one," Kling said.

Verma noted that some people have been concerned that the messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna could change their DNA.

The manufactured mRNA does not stay in the body, Verma explained. It only teaches the body's immune system to recognize the coronavirus as an enemy.

"It's temporary, like a sticky note," he said. "It's like Snapchat, where you send a message and it goes away."

The COVID Questions series is sponsored by In This Together Cambria, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and The Tribune-Democrat. Recordings of all seven forums are available on In This Together Cambria's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/inthistogethercambria.

The series continues with a panel of local leaders at 7 p.m. March 9. Upcoming forums will also look at economic impact on March 23 and education on April 6.