What SARS-CoV-2 Does to The Body

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020     Timothy Browne     One Comment

I’ve received so many good questions from my readers, it’s been impossible to stay away from the computer. I started out thinking this would be a biweekly post, but for now and with all the questions it’s evolved to daily posts. As the plague passes, so will the communication…you may be saying thank, God.

First, I want to address the mask issue again as I’ve contemplated my answer to a question posed to the blog. Forgive me, but I am rethinking this, as is the CDC and government agencies. Part of this comes from my experience yesterday in going to the store to restock some supplies…weird, our supply of chocolate seems to dwindle quickly. Clears throat…Julie. 

As I walked through the store, trying to dodge people and stay at least 6 ft away (which is impossible by the way in a store), a man, several rows over, sounded like he was coughing up a lung…GRRRR. First, please stay home if you are sick! I’m sure there are many who would be happy to brave the store to get what you need. Second, it has changed my mind on wearing face protection. I believe when you are out and about, it’s a good idea. I, like so many of you, do not have an N95 mask. If I did, I’d donate it to the hospital or the local fire/police/EMT force. 

So why wear a mask? A bandana or regular facemask DOES NOT filter out SARS-CoV-2, AND the wearer has a much higher tendency to touch their face…so why even bother. It’s actually to protect those around you; if you sneeze or cough, your droplets won’t go nearly so far….uhhh…gross. A study released yesterday shows that our sputum can actually travel 27 feet. I think it’s like the watermelon seed spitting contest…you really have to try to make it go that far!! For the guy in the store with a coughing fit, I sure hope you had on some kind of protective mask!! So, this is how I will go to the store: head, eyes, nose, and throat covered. I also wear washable gloves. Another option would be a plastic face shield.

I hope they don’t think I’m holding up the place.

Next, what does this nasty virus do to our bodies that makes it so deadly? I’m not going into a ton of scientific information here, but feel free to ask if you want more. From my very first post, remember how the virus enters cells, highjacks its protein machinery, and tricks the cell into reproducing thousands of more viruses. This kills the cell, releases these viruses and on-and-on it goes. This activates our immune system and sends our killer immune-cells to the area to eradicate the dead and infected cells. This sets up an entire inflammatory response and where all the mucus comes from. This is fine (although irritating) when it stays in the upper respiratory system (nose and throat). But unfortunately, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is notorious for going into the lungs. As the virus attacks the cells lining the lungs, it causes a massive inflammatory response. As the cells die, it creates a mess that clogs the lungs with fluid and debris. For reasons we don’t quite fully understand yet (and there are tons of opinions and discussion on treatment) in some, this sets off a cytokine storm, which is basically an immune response gone crazy. Think of it this way: the body is so overwhelmed with fighting off this viral infection, it sends immune response cruise missiles instead of individual soldiers with guns. In some people, it also appears to set off a blood clotting (thrombotic) response causing the body to sent thrombus to heart, lung, kidneys and other organs (Not a good thing). Between these two issues, critical patients quickly go into complete organ failure.

Lastly, why do we treat a fever (thank you, Denise, for this good question). You can see from our body’s reaction; the reason patients experience high fevers. All this inflammatory response releases chemicals that signal our bodies to raise our temperature. Remember…viruses are heat sensitive, so the increase in body temperature helps kill the virus. BUT, in medicine, there have been two counter streams of thought: (1) Fever should be suppressed because the metabolic cost (fever is inherently hard on your body) outweighs the potential benefit. (2) Fever is a protective adaptation that should be allowed to run its course in most circumstances.

So, treat it or ride it out? You will find more questions than solutions as you research this. But here are good guidelines by the Mayo Clinic:


I think personally, if my fever is low grade, I would not treat it and let my body do what it is made to do. Anything above 102° F, you will feel terrible and I would consider treating with Tylenol. Please check Mayo’s recommendation per age group, however.


1) I am changing my recommendation to wearing some sort of face protection when out in public.

2) Our bodies are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Thank God for all these incredible systems that monitor and fight off threats. But like a broken bone, occasionally our bodies need help to make it right again. We are so thankful to the medical workers who are truly fighting for their patients’ lives, while risking their own. PRAY FOR THEM.

Practical Tip of the Day:

Julie and I were sitting on the couch last night watching the news when the entire room shook. We had a 6.5 magnitude earthquake centered in Idaho! Man, did I quickly shoot off my seat. After my experience in Haiti, my body went into instant fight or flight. I realized just how tightly wound my system has been. We all need more relaxation, so here’s my tip of the day: Take some time to explore the amazing amount of free music out there:



And even from my favorite James Taylor:


Stay safe and healthy…With love, Timothy

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1 Comment

  1. Lynda Witzky says:

    Thank you so much for these posts!!!it is very helpful to lower my anxiety level. Of which is high like everyone! I will be wearing a mask if and when I go out to get my 85 year old dads groceries next week. Please do pray my dad to stay clear of this virus. He has COPD with underlying chronic bronchitis. If it hits him he may not make it through.
    Julie and Tim please stay healthy!
    Your leadership at Mercy Ships always made me fe safe so thank you thank you for these posts!!