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Doctors Keep Discovering New Ways the Coronavirus Attacks the Body

Damage to the kidneys, heart, brain — even ‘covid toes’ — prompts reassessment of the disease and how to treat it

Deborah Coughlin was neither short of breath nor coughing. In those first days after she became infected by the novel coronavirus, her fever never spiked above 100 degrees. It was vomiting and diarrhea that brought her to a Hartford, Conn., emergency room on May 1.

“You would have thought it was a stomach virus,” said her daughter, Catherina Coleman. “She was talking and walking and completely coherent.”

But even as Coughlin, 67, chatted with her daughters on her cellphone, the oxygen level in her blood dropped so low that most patients would be near death. She is on a ventilator and in critical condition at St. Francis Hospital, one more patient with a strange constellation of symptoms that physicians are racing to recognize, explain and treat.

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