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Visualizing What COVID-19 Does to Your Body

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what covid-19 does to your body
what covid-19 does to your body

Visualizing What COVID-19 Does to Your Body

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By now, researchers and health experts have gained a better understanding of the range of symptoms caused by COVID-19, which include fever, a dry cough, and of course, the dangerous inflammation of the respiratory system. Most of us know that COVID-19 can be much more severe than a typical flu, but lesser known are the mechanics behind how the virus causes pneumonia in its victims.

Today’s informative illustration, by scientific designer and animator Avesta Rastan, details the effects COVID-19 has on our lungs, from moderate to severe cases.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most people who contract COVID-19 only experience mild flu-like symptoms. Occasionally though, the infection can cascade into a severe case of pneumonia that can be lethal, especially for older people and those with underlying medical conditions.

Here’s what COVID-19 does to your body.

Infection

The virus, officially named SARS-CoV-2, enters the body – generally through the mouth or nose. From there, the virus makes its way down into the air sacs inside your lungs, known as alveoli.

Once in the alveoli, the virus uses its distinctive spike proteins to “hijack” cells. The primary genetic programming of any virus is to make copies of itself, and COVID-19 is no exception. Once the virus’ RNA has entered a cell, new copies are made and the cell is killed in the process, releasing new viruses to infect neighboring cells in the alveolus.

This process can occur initially without a person being aware of the infection, which is one of the reasons COVID-19 has been able to spread so effectively.

Immune Response

The process of hijacking cells to reproduce causes inflammation in the lungs, which triggers an immune response. As this process unfolds, fluid begins to accumulate in the alveoli, causing a dry cough and making breathing difficult.

For 80-85% of people infected by COVID-19, these symptoms will run their course much as they would with a case of the flu.

Severe Symptoms

In 15-20% cases, the immune system’s response to inflammation in the lungs can cause what’s known as a “cytokine storm”. This runaway response can cause more damage to the body’s own cells than to the virus it’s trying to defeat, and is thought to be the main reason for why the conditions of young, otherwise healthy individuals can rapidly deteriorate.

If enough alveoli collapse, a patient to be placed on a ventilator for breathing assistance. Both acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) are being investigated as causes.

severe case of covid-19

At this stage, the surfactant that helps keep alveoli from collapsing has been diluted, and fluid containing cellular debris is impairing the gas exchange process that supplies oxygen to our bloodstream.

In the most severe cases, systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) occurs as the protein-rich fluid from the lungs enters the bloodstream, resulting in septic shock and multi-organ failure. This is often the cause of death for people who have succumbed to a COVID-19 infection.

The Best Protection

Thankfully, COVID-19 isn’t a death sentence for most people who become infected, but the symptoms described above are not pleasant. Until a vaccine is developed, the best defense is avoiding infection altogether through frequent, thorough hand washing, and physical distancing as recommended by health authorities.

To see the full set of graphics, as well as other health and science related illustrations, visit Avesta Rastan’s website.

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Cannabis

Mapped: The European CBD Landscape in 2020

This graphic explains the innately complex legal status of CBD products in Europe and highlights the countries leading the CBD charge.

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Mapped: The European CBD Landscape in 2020

To say CBD has risen in popularity over the last decade is an understatement.

Not only have CBD consumer products rapidly infiltrated a long list of industries, new research discoveries continue to prove their therapeutic benefits. By 2023, the European CBD market is estimated to reach €1.4 billion.

However, a big problem remains—there is an incredible amount of uncertainty surrounding what is legal, and what isn’t. The above infographic from Elements of Green sheds some light on the innately complex legal status of CBD products in Europe.

The Great CBD Debate

CBD—short for cannabidiol—is a non-psychotropic compound produced by cannabis plants.

While most European countries have legalised it in some way, the caveat for many is that it must be extracted from industrial hemp, thus containing less than 0.2% THC—the intoxicating compound also found in cannabis. On the other hand, countries such as France and Norway only permit CBD isolate (the pure form of CBD) with no THC.

In 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) designated CBD products as a novel food. This means that companies should seek authorisation to bring products to market, although it is not required by law.

However, the industry has now hit a fork in the road, as the European Commission (EC) recently announced it will be suspending applications for novel foods status while it determines whether or not certain CBD products should be labelled as narcotics instead.

The Legal Landscape in 2020

As the industry flip flops between regulations, consumers and investors need to understand that each country has its own laws surrounding the use of CBD.

CountryCBD Legal Staus
🇦🇱 AlbaniaIllegal
🇦🇩 AndorraIllegal
🇦🇲 ArmeniaIllegal
🇦🇹 AustriaLegal grey area (legal lean)
🇧🇾 BelarusIllegal
🇧🇦 Bosnia and HerzegovinaIllegal
🇧🇪 BelgiumLegal grey area (restricted lean)
🇧🇬 BulgariaUnrestricted
🇨🇿 Czech RepublicLegal grey area (legal lean)
🇭🇷 CroatiaLegal grey area (legal lean)
🇩🇰 DenmarkUnrestricted
🇪🇪 EstoniaLegal grey area (legal lean)
🇫🇮 FinlandLegal grey area (restricted lean)
🇫🇷 FranceUnrestricted
🇬🇪 GeorgiaIllegal
🇩🇪 GermanyUnrestricted
🇬🇷 GreeceUnrestricted
🇭🇺 HungaryLegal grey area (legal lean)
🇮🇸 IcelandLegal grey area (legal lean)
🇮🇪 IrelandLegal grey area (restricted lean)
🇮🇹 ItalyLegal grey area (restricted lean/legal for medical use)
🇱🇻 LatviaLegal grey area
🇱🇮LiechtensteinLegal grey area
🇱🇹 LithuaniaIllegal
🇱🇺 LuxembourgUnrestricted
🇲🇹 MaltaLegal grey area/legal for medical use
🇲🇩 MoldovaIllegal
🇲🇨 MonacoIllegal
🇲🇪 MontenegroIllegal
🇳🇱 NetherlandsUnrestricted
🇲🇰 North MacedoniaLegal for medical use
🇳🇴 NorwayLegal for medical use
🇵🇱 PolandUnrestricted
🇵🇹 PortugalLegal for medical use
🇷🇴 RomaniaUnrestricted
🇷🇸 SerbiaLegal grey area (restricted lean)
🇸🇰 SlovakiaIllegal
🇸🇮 SloveniaUnrestricted
🇪🇸 SpainUnrestricted
🇸🇪 SwedenUnrestricted
🇨🇭 SwitzerlandUnrestricted
🇺🇦 UkraineUnrestricted
🇬🇧 United KingdomUnrestricted

While a handful of European countries have made it illegal to import, buy, or possess CBD, the vast majority have legalised CBD products that either comply with the Novel Foods Act, or can be obtained from a licensed medical practitioner.

Of these countries, Germany and the UK lead the European CBD market, followed by Switzerland, Austria, Spain, and Greece.

A Call For Change

A progessive stance on cannabis legalisation combined with increasing consumer demand has led to several countries showing remarkable growth, such as Poland, Bulgaria, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Luxembourg in particular presents a compelling growth story, as it plans to fully legalise adult-use recreational cannabis in 2021, which would make it the first European country to do so.

Despite its small size, Luxembourg could in fact be instrumental in encouraging neighbouring countries to implement similar reforms, also known as the neighbour effect.

Growing Pains of a Nascent Industry

Considering each country has its own unique restrictions in place, CBD consumers should educate themselves on the regulations and laws relevant to them.

Despite these often confusing laws and restrictions, it is clear that demand for CBD products is growing exponentially. As a result, the continent may have the potential to overtake North America as the largest CBD market in the world.

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Misc

Global COVID-19 Containment: Confirmed Cases, Updated Daily

This continuously updated chart provides a more complete look at the efficacy of COVID-19 containment strategies.

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Global COVID Containment: Confirmed Cases, Updated Daily

Sometimes, it helps to gain a fresh perspective.

Since the pandemic began, there have been innumerable tracking resources made available online, but rarely do they paint a complete picture of a country’s containment progress.

How Much Progress Is Really Being Made

Featured above, this continuously updated chart from Our World in Data provides a more complete look at the efficacy of COVID-19 containment strategies, sorted by country.

It is a variation of the Epidemic Curve (or “epi curve”), showing confirmed COVID-19 cases per country in relation to their testing rates—what’s revealed is the strength of each country’s containment strategy.

Only a fraction of total cases–those confirmed by a test–is known. This is why we spent recent months building the database and the visualization tool to make this variation of the epidemic curve possible.

— Our World in Data

Why Look at it This Way? Adequate Benchmarking

Countries vary widely in how they monitor and report on COVID-19. Cases in this particular chart were confirmed via laboratory testing, and the data covers 66% of the globe’s population.

Depending on a country’s containment efforts, confirmed cases can differ dramatically from total cases. To get a better idea of that difference, Our World in Data looked closer at the extent of testing. As they report, the World Health Organization considers an adequate benchmark to be 10-30 tests per confirmed case. And for those countries that experience larger outbreaks, there must be more tests conducted per confirmed case.

What the COVID Test-to-Case Ratio Tells Us

  • Line Trajectory: In this chart, rising lines show that the average number of laboratory-confirmed cases has increased over time, and vice versa for falling lines. Beyond flattening the curve, the end game is to have all of those lines reach zero.
  • Blue Lines: The darker the blue line, the more likely that the line is an accurate indicator, as thousands of tests have been administered per confirmed case. The more blue lines this chart shows over time, the better for us all.
  • Red Lines: By contrast, the warmer the color of the line, the fewer tests are being administered per confirmed case, and it is less likely to be an accurate measure of COVID-19 cases. Red lines, for example, indicate that only five tests are conducted for every confirmed case, suggesting that the count is not accurate and that many cases are going unreported.

Epi Curve Scenario Examples

Consider these three scenarios in the diagram above, and hover over countries in the main visualization to compare:

  • Country A: Winning the fight against COVID-19.
    These countries, like New Zealand, have steadily increased the number of tests per confirmed case. Country A administers hundreds or thousands of tests per confirmed case. The likelihood of missed cases is far lower, most cases are accounted for, and they can confidently state they are winning the fight against COVID-19.
  • Country B: A severe, prolonged outbreak.
    In comparison, countries like the U.S. have experienced a steady rise in confirmed cases. They also have lower rates of testing—only five tests per confirmed case. Country B cases are likely to be higher than the number reported, a fact that is especially concerning given that the U.S. has already surpassed the rest of the world’s countries in confirmed cases.
  • Country C: A volatile scenario.
    While confirmed cases decrease, there is much room for doubt. In Country C (South Africa for instance), confirmed cases are decreasing, but very few tests are administered. Unfortunately, this indicates there are many unrepresented cases. Country C probably has a larger problem than its downward trajectory would indicate.

Cases Per Million People

From a different angle, we can see daily new COVID-19 cases per capita. This gives us a better sense of how countries compare in terms of confirmed cases.

Countries like Thailand, New Zealand, and South Korea all show relatively low rates of COVID-19 per capita, as well as high levels of testing. Conversely, countries like Spain and Kuwait reveal high levels of confirmed cases per capita and extremely low testing rates.

Another Perspective for Good Measure

For a holistic view of testing, the map below shows us the daily number of tests for each newly confirmed COVID-19 case, based on a rolling 7-day average.

Countries like Norway, Australia, and Canada reveal strong testing-to-confirmed-case ratios. In contrast, countries like Bolivia and the Philippines reveal the probability of out-of-control outbreaks.

Due to lower levels of testing in relation to confirmed cases, countries in red are more likely to leave cases unreported.

Making Sense of the Unknown

Although charts like these allow us to look at relationships between critical variables, there are no guarantees of what will come of this outbreak or any second waves.

The only certainty right now, is uncertainty. But with visualizations like this one—updated daily—we can at least stay up-to-speed with the knowledge curve.

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