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Coronavirus physicians are noticing many patients hitting a 'COVID cliff.' Here's what that means.

This happens when patients start to get better but then suddenly get much worse.

SAN ANTONIO — The novel coronavirus is so new – even amid a pandemic – that physicians and researchers seem to learn more about it every day. More recently, healthcare workers have noticed a condition they are calling the "COVID cliff." 

Medical experts say many patients suffer with coronavirus symptoms for a week to 10 days before starting to recover. For others, the road is a little rocker; just when they are starting to feel better or expect to, they hit the COVID cliff, and get much sicker very quickly. And many don't survive.

"Unfortunately, some of these patients, when this happens or this phenomenon starts to happen, then they get sicker and they end up in the ICU and sometimes on a ventilator," said Dr. Diego Maselli, the medical director of respiratory therapy at University Hospital. 

Maselli said around 30% to 40% of patients admitted to the hospital end up having this surge of inflammation. 

"We are still trying to understand what the mechanisms are behind the disease and how the virus will create this inflammation that's very strong and very high," he said. 

Some of the signs that somebody may be reaching the so-called COVID cliff include rapidly deteriorating vital signs such as increased oxygen requirements, an increased respiratory rate, a high fever, malaise and feeling ill with body aches. 

"We can actually measure that in the blood and then also track it over time so every certain 48 hours (or) 24 hours, we measure different inflammatory markers in the blood that can give us additional insight into what's happening not only from what we can see but what's going on behind the scenes."

Now that the second phase of the remdesivir trial is beginning and being combined with the anti-inflammatory Bbaricinitib, there is hope that these patients who experience the COVID cliff could have a better chance of not falling off it if researchers see promising results. 

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