The basis of contracting the infection is the same for all individuals. The virus is transmitted via droplets in the air from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talking; or through touching contaminated surfaces as the virus can survive for several hours or even days on surfaces such as tables and door handles.1
Once the virus enters the body it causes direct damage to the lungs and triggers an inflammatory response which places stress on the cardiovascular system in two ways. Firstly, by infecting the lungs the blood oxygen levels drop and secondly, the inflammatory effects of the virus itself cause the blood pressure to drop as well. In such cases the heart must beat faster and harder to supply oxygen to major organs.
Particularly at risk are the following groups:
- Individuals who are immunosuppressed, such as transplant patients, patients with cancer who are receiving chemotherapy or extensive radiotherapy, patients with concomitant leukemia or lymphoma who have heart disease are theoretically at greatest risk of contracting and succumbing to the effects of the virus.3
- Other high-risk groups include elderly and frail people as well as pregnant women with concomitant cardiovascular disease.3
- Individuals with heart conditions, such as heart failure, dilated cardiomyopathy, advanced forms of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy and patients with congenital cyanotic heart disease are at highest risk.
- Patients with the obstructive form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may also be placed in the same high-risk category.
There is no evidence that the virus infects implanted devices such as pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillators or causes infective endocarditis in those with valvular heart disease.