Elon Answers: COVID-19′s pneumonia is more severe

This is part of a series of articles featuring responses by Elon University faculty members to questions about the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) submitted by Alamance County community members.

There seems to be an increase in pneumonia because of COVID-19. Is it a good idea for survivors of the virus to get interviewed by scientists, to see how many had received the Prevnar shot?

Pneumonia is lung infection that causes the air sacs to fill with fluid. The pneumonia caused by the COVID-19 virus is more severe than pneumonia caused by other viruses.

Shaun Lynch, assistant professor of physician assistant studies

The Prevnar shot does not prevent pneumonia caused by the coronavirus or other viruses. It is a vaccine that protects against pneumonia caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae.

The World Health Organization recommends the vaccine to protect your overall health, even though it does not work against COVID-19. The vaccine is especially recommended for children, adults older than 65, and adults who smoke cigarettes and have certain underlying medical conditions. You can find out more about the pneumonia vaccine on the Centers for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pneumo/public/index.html.

I read that scientists are exploring the possibility of giving a blood transfusion to someone really sick in the hospital with COVID-19. Will the blood transfusion possibly come from a donor who has recovered from the coronavirus, who could potentially transmit antibodies to help a sick patient?

Antibodies are proteins produced by our immune system to fight infections. When you recover from an infection, your body keeps some of these antibodies, which preserve a memory of that infection and protect you against future infections. It is possible that blood from recovered COVID-19 patients might have antibodies that help to treat the disease.

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Blood transfusions have been successful in reducing deaths from other respiratory infections. We don’t know yet whether it will help COVID-19 patients. The Food and Drug Administration gave permission to investigate whether the blood from recovered COVID-19 patients can help patients in cases with serious or immediately life-threatening infections. Clinical trials have begun, but it will take several months before we know the effectiveness of the blood transfusion technique. You can read the statement from the FDA at FDA.gov.

Finally, I want to remind everyone that the Red Cross continues to encourage regular blood donations during the coronavirus pandemic. Please visit the American Red Cross’ website, redcross.org, for information to safely give blood.

Suppose I develop COVID-19 illness and need hospitalization, but I am not in immediate danger. If my doctor and my records are established at a specific hospital, such as Duke, could I ask an ambulance to take me there, rather than the closest hospital?

The decision of which hospital an ambulance takes you to is determined by many factors. These include your current state of health, a specific injury, illness or underlying medical conditions, hospital capacities, geographic location, and patient choice. These can vary considerably among states and even counties. If for some reason you are unable to go to your preferred hospital, your health care provider can obtain your medical records with your consent from other healthcare facilities and providers. You might also bring with you a list of your current medications.

Shaun Lynch is an assistant professor of physician assistant studies at Elon University and a practicing PA in an urgent care setting. Reach him at slynch14@elon.edu.


To submit a question to our team of scientists, visit tinyurl.com/eloncovid19, email us at eloncovid19@gmail.com, or use social media with hashtag #eloncovid19. Answers will be published as available in the Times-News, at www.thetimesnews.com, and on Today at Elon.