COVID-19, flu, RSV, or viruses versus the health of your lungs

The lungs are one of the most important organs in the body. Find out how viral infections affect it.

Emilia Moskal - AuthorAuthorEmilia Moskal
Emilia Moskal - Author
AuthorEmilia Moskal
Natu.Care Editor

Emilia Moskal specialises in medical and psychological texts, including content for medical entities. She is a fan of simple language and reader-friendly communication. At Natu.Care, she writes educational articles.

Learn more about our editorial process

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Kacper Nihalani - Reviewed byReviewed byKacper Nihalani
Verified by an expert
Kacper Nihalani - Reviewed by
Reviewed byKacper Nihalani
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A doctor working at St Mary's Hospital on the Isle of Wight in the UK.

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Bartholomew Turczynski - Edited byEdited byBartholomew Turczynski
Bartholomew Turczynski - Edited by
Edited byBartholomew Turczynski
Editor-in-Chief

Bartłomiej Turczyński is the editor-in-chief of Natu.Care. He is responsible for the quality of the content created on Natu.Care, among others, and ensures that all articles are based on sound scientific research and consulted with industry specialists.

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Ludwig Jelonek - Fact-checkingFact-checkingLudwig Jelonek
Ludwig Jelonek - Fact-checking
Fact-checkingLudwig Jelonek
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Ludwik Jelonek is the author of more than 2,500 texts published on leading portals. His content has found its way into services such as Ostrovit and Kobieta Onet. At Natu.Care, Ludwik educates people in the most important area of life - health.

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COVID-19, flu, RSV, or viruses versus the health of your lungs
29 April, 2024
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What can you hear in your lungs after a pandemic? Let's hope only the beautiful melody of an alveolar murmur. Your respiratory system may have been through quite a lot over the past few years...

Since 4 March 2020, when the first case of COVID-19 infection was reported in Poland, everyone's attention has been focused on the new celebrity of the viral world: the SARS-Cov-2 strain. The rest has been somewhat forgotten, and yet the popular corona has not at all made flu and other pathogens disappear.

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From this article you will learn:

  • When the 32nd Grand Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity starts.
  • Which viruses are the most important.

    Which viruses are the most important.

  • Which viruses most commonly infect the lungs.
  • What are the most common viruses?
  • What havoc they wreak on the respiratory system and beyond.
  • How many Poles are living with respiratory infections?
  • How many Poles have already contracted COVID-19.
  • .
  • What a lung diagnosis looks like and who should undergo it.
  • What the principles of lung diagnosis are.
  • What are the principles of antiviral prophylaxis and what can be done to recover more quickly from infection.
  • What are the principles of antiviral prophylaxis and what can be done to recover more quickly from infection?

See also:

In the Orchestra let it play, but in the lungs... not necessarily

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The 32nd Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy) is coming up in 2024 - the most famous and noble orchestra in Poland, under the baton of Jurek Owsiak, will play on 28 January. This time its aim will be to purchase equipment for research and rehabilitation of patients in pulmonology wards.

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The motto of this year's Finale is "Lungs after the pandemic. We play for children and adults!". We, too, have decided to make as much noise as possible around the lungs, although inside the lungs themselves, it would be best to be relatively quiet...

What viruses most commonly attack the lungs?

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Definitely your lungs should not be playing, but murmuring. An alveolar murmur is a normal sound that should be audible on auscultation. Its absence or other sounds, such as rales, can be a sign of disease.

And, although the ailments of the two spongy lobes hidden beneath the ribs are innumerable, we will focus below on the most common ones - affecting virtually all of us - caused by tiny creatures with amazing procreative abilities.

The lungs are the central point of the respiratory system, which also includes the so-called upper respiratory tract (i.e. - in simple terms - the nose, throat and larynx). It is there that viral infectionsand most often begin and end.

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Sometimes, however, the immune system is unable to stop the reproduction of pathogens and they reach the bronchi and then the lungs, causing inflammation, or viral pneumonia .

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Which viruses are most likely to make their home in your lungs?

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Flu

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The influenza virus is divided into three types: A, B and C. The first two are responsible for most human cases. Among each type, further subtypes can be distinguished. Their number is constantly increasing, as the viruses are constantly mutating. This is why experts recommend repeating the flu vaccination every yearand.

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When the flu virus enters your body and is not pacified in time by the immune system, it starts to do what it does best - multiply.

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Expansion of the pathogen causes a range of symptoms, such asand:

  • fever,
  • .
  • chills,
  • .
  • muscle aches,
  • pain.
  • headache,
  • .
  • dry cough,
  • .
  • sore throat,
  • .
  • general weakness,
  • .

Although typical flu symptoms do not include inflammation of the lungs, they are one of the most common complications of influenza A or B virus infectionand.

Most commonly, influenza pneumonia develops in people who are immunocompromised, or weakened by chronic diseases that negatively affect the whole body. Seniors and pregnant women are also more at riskand.

RSV

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RSV, like influenza, is a seasonally occurring disease. In our geographical region, it falls in autumn and winter, with peak incidence in January and February. RSV ( respiratory syncytial virus) is a respiratory syncytial virus. It gets its name from the fact that cells infected with it, begin to fuse into areas called syncytiaand.

RSV pathogens entering the lungs can damage the cilia, causing problems with mucus clearance, which reduces the patency and efficiency of the bronchioles (the part of the lungs between the bronchi and alveoli) .

In most adults, RSV infection has a mild course and does not reach the lungs. It is mainly infants who are at risk of such complications, requiring hospitalisation even in the initial phase of infection. The virus is most dangerous for premature infants, as their respiratory system is not fully developedand.

Coronavirus

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Coronavirus is now associated with a real star among pathogens that has brought the whole world to its feet, like a top rock band. It is, of course, about SARS-Cov-2, but it is worth knowing that it is just one of many strains of coronaviruses.

COVID-19, the disease caused by these pathogens, can lead to an acute respiratory infection, combined with shortness of breath, fever, cough and fatigueand.

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Interestingly, the initial variant of the SARS-Cov-2 strain, caused a very characteristic loss of taste and smell. And this was true even in people who had no other symptoms of the virus. However, subsequent mutations corona caused these symptoms in fewer and fewer patients and are now rareand.

SARS-Cov-2 can lead to pneumonia. It is estimated that one in five patients will go through COVID-19 infection quite severely, and about 2% of people will require hospitalisation .

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The virus damages the alveoli, leading to increased exudate and fluid accumulation in the alveoli. Thus burdened (blocked), they are unable to perform their function. If a sufficiently extensive area of the lungs is infected, the most severe stage of the disease can develop, which is ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome), or acute respiratory failureand. It is often associated with the need for the patient to undergo oxygen therapy .

Oxygen therapy vs ventilator

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After the pandemic, everyone has probably heard about ventilators. However, it's worth knowing that connecting a patient to a ventilator is the final stage of oxygen therapy, designed to support or replace respiratory muscle movementand.

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Respirators are therefore reserved for patients in the most severe condition, and their use is very invasive to the respiratory system . The majority of patients infected with COVID-19 are able to be helped by other methods, such as administering concentrated oxygen from a cylinder or oxygen socket through a sniffer, and if that is not enough, through a mask .

Is every healer ... healthy?

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You've been through covidacious pneumonia. It was tough, but you overcame the illness. Your symptoms have subsided and you feel reasonably well now. Does this mean that there is no longer a trace left of the changes in the lung tissue? Not necessarily.

Although the lungs damaged during COVID-19 will regenerate in most recovering patients, some may develop fibrosis. Interstitial pulmonary fibrosis is a dangerous condition that leads to the formation of irreversible, rigid, fibrotic areas in the tissue that lose their respiratory functionand.

Patients who use a ventilator, which can intensify microdamage in the lungs, are most at risk of fibrosis, and the condition is associated with the scarring process of damaged lung tissue .

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Important

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Experts recommend that a follow-up chest x-ray is performed on any patient who has undergone severe covidnia pneumonia - 12 weeks after recovery.

Being asymptomatic with... symptoms?

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You may remember the case of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, on which there was a mini outbreak COVID-19. Of the 3711 people (crew and passengers, on board the ship), 712 became ill, of whom 311 were asymptomatic.

As a result of the outbreak, 712 people became ill, of whom 311 were asymptomatic.

Some time later, the lungs of 76 people from the group that showed no symptoms were x-rayed and... in half of the cases, lesions were discovered in them.

Coronavirus statistics

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Since not in all cases being cured of Covida means the end of the health care adventure, and pulmonologists will have to help a new group of recovering patients, it is worth looking at the scale of this phenomenon.

The above graphic obviously illustrates only recorded and confirmed cases. One can therefore guess that the true scale of the incidence was much greater. Nonetheless, according to estimates, a total of more than 17% of our population has already contracted COVID-19and.

According to the 2021 comparative study, the average proportion of patients with COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation is 2.1% and is largely age-dependent. In people over 60, the result is much higher - 9.2%and. This means that almost one in ten people in this age group, will end up in hospital due to SARS-Cov-2 infection.

In comparison, the proportion of patients requiring hospitalisation due to the influenza virus averages around 1-1.2%and.

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How to test the lungs after a pandemic?

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Begin by saying that a chest x-ray (rentgen lung) is classed as a periodic examination that adults should have once every two years. If you are employed under a contract of employment, you will be referred for such examinations by your employer. However, if you are earning money under other contracts, you must remember to do them yourself.

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It is, however, not worth waiting to see a doctor if the work of your lungs concerns you. See a specialist especially ifand:

    .
  • you are experiencing shortness of breath,
  • .
  • you have a prolonged dry cough that is not related to an infection,
  • .
  • you get tired more quickly (e.g. you often catch breathlessness),
  • you feel pressure in your chest.
  • you feel tightness in your chest,
  • .
  • your physical performance has decreased,
  • .

Pulmonary diagnostics may include investigations:

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  • auditory,
  • .
  • imaging (computed tomography or X-ray),
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  • functional (spirometry and plethysmography),
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  • bronchoscopy,
  • .

As an adjunct, exercise testing (e.g. 6-minute walk test) is often used.

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Spirometry is a test that is used to determine, among other things, lung capacity and lung function, while plethysmography allows one to know the total air content of the lungs. Bronchoscopy, on the other hand, allows a 'live' visual assessment of the airways and the collection of tissue sections for examination - including lung parenchyma. It is most commonly performed using a bronchofibrescopeand.

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Not only the respiratory system...

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Viruses that attack the respiratory tract leave their mark not only there. Studies show that both influenza and COVID-19 are not indifferent to the cardiovascular system either. In the case of the flu, its ignored complications can even lead to a myocardial infarctionand.

In fact, inflammation of the myocardium can occur during the course of this common disease, which is associated with the occurrence of arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation .

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Coronavirus can instead disrupt energy production in heart cells and thus lead to damage . In addition to weakening the cardiovascular system, COVID-19 can also contribute to kidney failure. The virus is able to attack the cells of this organ as well, potentially leading to a reduction in its efficiency .

How to keep out viruses?

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To reduce the likelihood of a serious viral illness, it is best to be vaccinated against it. Commercially available vaccines are safe and formulated to protect against the latest known strains of virusand. This is why vaccinations for viral diseases are worth repeating, i.e. taking so-called booster doses . What else can you do?

Basic principles of antiviral prevention includeand:

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  • avoiding crowded places,
  • .
  • washing hands thoroughly and frequently,
  • .
  • reducing contact with people who have symptoms of infection,
  • .
  • wearing a mask in areas where viruses are naturally more prevalent (e.g. in healthcare facilities),
  • .
  • social responsibility, i.e. self-isolation in case of illness,
  • .

You can also try to support your immune system and strengthen your body by providing it with essential vitamins and minerals. It is worth doing this not only during the autumn/winter season, but all year round. Which are the most important ones?

First and foremost, immunity is supported by:

Best if you provide them to your body in a diet full of nutritious vegetables, fruits and healthy fatsproteins and carbohydrates. Also remember to get an adequate dose of restorative sleep. Regular physical activity is another building block that will stimulate the immune system to work more efficiently.

How to take care of yourself after a viral illness?

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After a viral illness, focus on recovery:

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  • Rest. Viruses weaken the body, so give it time to recover. For example, after the flu, an extra week's rest is recommended.
  • Eat healthy. Your diet should be rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. Protein is essential for rebuilding cells, while vitamins and minerals support the immune system.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Hydration helps to eliminate toxins. Fruit tea or water are ideal for this.
  • Exercise at a moderate intensity. Light physical activity, such as walking, improves circulation and speeds up the body's recovery.
  • Air out your home. When you are ill, a lot of viruses build up in the room you are in. Air the room both during and just after treatment to get rid of the accumulated germs.
  • .

Taking care of yourself after a viral illness helps to avoid complications and restores your body to full function.

Take care of yourself after a viral illness.

See also:

Summary

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  • "Lungs After Pandemic. We play for children and adults!" - is the aim of the 32nd Grand Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, which will take place on 28 January 2024
  • .
  • The viruses that most commonly attack the lungs are SARS-CoV-2 in adults and RSV in children. Pneumonia can also be a complication of the influenza virus.
  • Pneumonia can also be a complication of the influenza virus.
  • COVID-19 can cause lung lesions even in people who have undergone it asymptomatically. Patients with a severe course of the disease may also develop pulmonary fibrosis.
  • COVID-19 can also cause lung fibrosis.
  • As of 4 March 2020, nearly 6.5 million Poles have contracted COVID-19.
  • .
  • Viral infections can have complications not only in the respiratory tract. The dangerous consequences of these diseases most often also affect the cardiovascular system.
  • .
  • It is worthwhile to examine the lungs regularly. The most common diagnostics include imaging examinations, spirometry and bronchoscopy.
  • The most common diagnostics include imaging examinations, spirometry and bronchoscopy.
  • In the autumn and winter season, it is important to remember the principles of prevention to guard against viral diseases. Among the basic ones are: frequent and thorough hand washing, using distance from people with symptoms of infection or wearing masks in places where pathogens may be abundant (e.g. clinics).
  • Prevention of severe viral illnesses can be effectively protected by the use of vaccines. These preparations are safe, and repeated vaccination protects against the latest strains of viruses.
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FAQ

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. How to distinguish between a cold and the flu.

Differentiating a cold from the flu is often difficult, but there are some symptoms that can help.

  • Note the suddenness of the symptoms. Flu usually starts suddenly, whereas a cold develops slowly.
  • Check the symptoms.
  • Check if you have a fever. A cold rarely causes a high fever, while flu is often associated with a significant temperature.
  • .
  • Evaluate your level of fatigue. Influenza usually results in severe weakness, which is not typical of the common cold.
  • Flu is a very common illness.

So if you suddenly feel very unwell and get a high fever with severe weakness, it is probably the flu. On the other hand, if you have mild symptoms that develop slowly, this is more likely to indicate a cold.

Distinguishing between the two illnesses is important because influenza can have serious consequences, especially for people with weakened immune systems, and may require antiviral treatment.

. Is angina a viral disease?.

No, angina is not a viral disease. It is an infectious bacterial disease, most commonly caused by group A streptococci (in most cases by Streptococcus pyogenes). Its symptoms include sore throat, difficulty swallowing, markedly enlarged tonsils (sometimes with purulent discharge), fever, headache.

The treatment of tonsillitis is based on antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria. Amoxicillin-based ones (e.g. Ospamox) are often used. Angina is contagious, so avoid close contact with others until treatment is complete.

. Do you need a referral for a lung x-ray?

Yes, a referral from a specialist is required for a lung scan. See your GP who will be able to assess your symptoms and decide whether a lung scan is necessary. Your doctor will give you a referral if he or she determines that you need one.

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The referral is essential as it helps control access to diagnostic X-ray exposure services and ensures that the test is medically justified.

. Can the lungs regenerate?".

Yes, the lungs have the ability to regenerate. To aid this process, follow a few specific steps. Firstly, avoid tobacco smoke and other harmful substances. Tobacco smoke damages the lungs and hinders recovery.

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Secondly, maintain a nutritious diet rich in antioxidants that support lung health. For example, eat more fruits and vegetables, such as berries and broccoli.

Thirdly, exercise regularly. Exercise improves lung capacity and helps remove harmful substances from the lungs. This is important because healthy lungs have a better ability to regenerate.

The lungs are also better able to recover.

. How many people have died from coronavirus in Poland?".

The number of people who have died from COVID-19 has steadily increased since the start of the pandemic. Since 4 March 2020, when the first case of infection was reported in Poland, more than 120,000 people have already died from the coronavirus or its associated diseases.

. How long does COVID-19 last?.

COVID-19 typically lasts between 2 and 6 weeks. For mild symptoms, you can expect to recover in about 2 weeks. In severe cases, it may take 3-6 weeks. The duration may vary depending on your condition and age.

Isolate yourself from others if you have symptoms. Contact your doctor if symptoms are severe. Older people and those with chronic illnesses often experience a longer duration of infection.

Isolate from others if your symptoms are severe.

. What kills viruses?.

Apply high temperatures. Many viruses, like influenza, will not survive in environments above 56°C. Cook items that can withstand this, for example glassware and bottles.

Use disinfectants. Isopropyl alcohol (70%) or chlorine-based agents kill most viruses. Disinfect surfaces that you touch frequently.

Take care of your hygiene.

Care for hand hygiene. Water and soap remove viruses from your hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after contact with objects in public places (doorknobs, handrails, lift buttons, etc.).

Hand hygiene.

Ultraviolet radiation also destroys viruses on surfaces. However, such disinfection requires specialised equipment and appropriate precautions. This solution is often used in cosmetic, dental or doctor's surgeries.

It is also used to disinfect surfaces.

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Resources

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32nd Final-Wosp.org.co.uk. (n.d.). Retrieved 5 January 2024, from http://www.wosp.org.pl/final/final

Association, A. L. (n.d.). What Causes Pneumonia? Retrieved 5 January 2024, from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pneumonia/what-causes-pneumonia

Boktor, S. W., & Hafner, J. W. (2023). Influenza. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459363/

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Boncristiani, H. F., Criado, M. F., & Arruda, E. (2009). Respiratory Viruses. IN M. Schaechter (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Microbiology (Third Edition) (pp. 500-518). Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012373944-5.00314-X

Cascella, M., Rajnik, M., Aleem, A., Dulebohn, S. C., & Di Napoli, R. (2023). Features, Evaluation, and Treatment of Coronavirus (COVID-19). In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554776/

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Chow, E. J., Doyle, J. D., & Uyeki, T. M. (2019). Influenza virus-related critical illness: Prevention, diagnosis, treatment. Critical Care23(1), 214. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13054-019-2491-9

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Guerche-Séblain, C. E., Etcheto, A., Parmentier, F., Afshar, M., Macias, A. E., Puentes, E., Gresset-Bourgeois, V., Akcay, M., Petitjean, A., & Coudeville, L. (2022). Hospital admissions with influenza and impact of age and comorbidities on severe clinical outcomes in Brazil and Mexico. PLOS ONE17(11), e0273837. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273837

Hu, B., Guo, H., Zhou, P., & Shi, Z.-L. (2021). Characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. Nature Reviews Microbiology19(3), Article 3. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41579-020-00459-7

Influenza Virus: Arbeitskreis Blut, Untergruppe "Bewertung Blutassoziierter Krankheitserreger". (2009). Transfusion Medicine and Hemotherapy36(1), 32-39. https://doi.org/10.1159/000197314

Jain, H., Schweitzer, J. W., & Justice, N. A. (2023). Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection in Children. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459215/

Kaler, J., Hussain, A., Patel, K., Hernandez, T., Ray, S., Kaler, J., Hussain, A., Patel, K., Hernandez, T., & Ray, S. (2023). Respiratory Syncytial Virus: A Comprehensive Review of Transmission, Pathophysiology, and Manifestation. Cureus15(3). https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.36342

Menachemi, N., Dixon, B. E., Wools-Kaloustian, K. K., Yiannoutsos, C. T., & Halverson, P. K. (2021). How Many SARS-CoV-2-Infected People Require Hospitalization? Using Random Sample Testing to Better Inform Preparedness Efforts. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice27(3), 246. https://doi.org/10.1097/PHH.0000000000001331

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Parasher, A. (2021). COVID-19: Current understanding of its Pathophysiology, Clinical presentation and Treatment. Postgraduate Medical Journal97(1147), 312-320. https://doi.org/10.1136/postgradmedj-2020-138577

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Rothberg, M. B., Haessler, S. D., & Brown, R. B. (2008). Complications of Viral Influenza. The American Journal of Medicine121(4), 258-264. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2007.10.040

Shang, W., Kang, L., Cao, G., Wang, Y., Gao, P., Liu, J., & Liu, M. (2022). Percentage of Asymptomatic Infections among SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant-Positive Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Vaccines10(7), Article 7. https://doi.org/10.3390/vaccines10071049

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Postcovid band. (n.d.). Retrieved January 5, 2024, from https://koronawirusunas.pl/informacje/zespol-postcovidowy

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Meet the team
Emilia Moskal - Author

Natu.Care Editor

Emilia Moskal specialises in medical and psychological texts, including content for medical entities. She is a fan of simple language and reader-friendly communication. At Natu.Care, she writes educational articles.

Kacper Nihalani - Reviewed by
Verified by an expert

A doctor working at St Mary's Hospital on the Isle of Wight in the UK.

Bartholomew Turczynski - Edited by

Editor-in-Chief

Bartłomiej Turczyński is the editor-in-chief of Natu.Care. He is responsible for the quality of the content created on Natu.Care, among others, and ensures that all articles are based on sound scientific research and consulted with industry specialists.

Ludwig Jelonek - Fact-checking

Natu.Care Editor

Ludwik Jelonek is the author of more than 2,500 texts published on leading portals. His content has found its way into services such as Ostrovit and Kobieta Onet. At Natu.Care, Ludwik educates people in the most important area of life - health.

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