Tuesday, May 05, 2020

"Is Covid-19 Like Altitude Sickness?" If so, some more scary implications that belong in science fiction

I do like to treat lecture presentations as “short films” on this blog (since I have a Wordpress blog for regular features)  when the subject matter relates to other work I have been doing. Such is the case today, with Jason Sonners of HBOT USA discussing “Is Covid-19 Like Altitude Sickness?

The clip shows a still of an expedition up Mt. Everest in Nepal, but then he talks.

He says that the Sars-Cov-2 virus attacks red blood cells (I thought it was endothelial tissue in blood vessels) and interferes with hemoglobin. He discusses the pressurization of a commercial airliner flying at 35000 feet to simulate the atmosphere at 8000 feet, where the percentage of oxygen is still the same, 21%, but the molecules of oxygen are farther apart.  Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for some situations simulates below sea level pressure to cause more oxygen to be dissolved in the plasma of the blood.

The question of altitude sickness comes up because in New York City particularly, doctors started noticing that patients could function (use their cell phones) even as the oxygen levels in their blood were amazingly low.  Other doctors have said that this happens not so much because of blood infection but because the lungs themselves have lost flexibility.

In my own novel manuscript, “Angel’s Brother” there is a virus that first appears only at high altitudes, and then starts moving down the mountains.  As it moves into different populations there are different effects or behaviors of the virus.  I started imagining all this around 2000, and it’s shocking that twenty years later a real life virus does a lot of the things I had imagined.  Yet the coronavirus first exploded mainly in larger cities at low elevations. A virus that causes hypoxemia theoretically might incubate first in higher country and, when spreading to lower country, incubate in people with weaker circulatory systems (as degraded with age or by cigarette smoking), particularly in the lower limbs first.  It is a scary fictitious hypothesis, that has turned out to be partly true.

Picture:  Sierra Nevada, California, near Mammoth Lakes, my picture, May 2012.  Elevation at this spot (with glaciers coming down to lake), about 11,000 feet (climb starts at 9,500 off US 395).  

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