How exactly does COVID-19 kill people?
Omar Elwafaii

COVID-19 attacks the lungs and can cause serious infections, but what exactly is happening that causes people to die? CGTN takes a look inside the human body to show you how the virus affects the lungs on a cellular level, and how COVID-19 eventually kills.

When the coronavirus enters the respiratory system, it replicates, attacks, and destroys healthy lung cells. Our bodies are programmed to fight this, but, ironically, the immune response meant to protect us can cause more damage. 

Attacking the virus creates inflammation. When that occurs, more lung tissue can be compromised, which can make a person more susceptible to pneumonia.

Pneumonia is somewhat of a blanket term that refers to infections that affect the air sacs in one or both lungs. The normally dry sacs, called alveoli, fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe.

The fluid makes it hard for oxygen to get into our blood and that can cause a whole host of problems. Vital organs like our liver and kidneys need lots of oxygenated blood. Without it, they can shut down. 

Not surprisingly, patients who are older and long-time smokers - or have otherwise compromised lungs - are at higher risk of developing serious complications.

The WHO reported that most COVID-19 deaths appear to be from multi-organ failure. Current estimates put the virus' fatality rate is around two-and-a-half percent.

That's much lower than SARS, which had a global fatality rate of around 10 percent.

For COVID-19 cases, the WHO reports that most - around 82% - are "mild." And, by mild, they mean the illness requires "little or no" treatment.