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Fight Coronavirus with Good Hygiene - Part 7

Don Mackintosh Joel Sabangan
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  • March 30, 2020
    1:30 PM
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[DON MACKINTOSH] Hi, I’m Don Mackintosh. Welcome to our series on boosting immunity and helping the community. And with us today we have Dr. Joel Sebangan; he’s joining us from Ardmore, Oklahoma, where he practices in a busy hospital as a pulmonologist. Pulmonologist, what does that mean? That’s a lung doctor, right?


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] That’s correct, yes.


[DON MACKINTOSH] And we’re going to talk about the lungs and COVID-19. First of all, you know, you look at lungs all the time; that’s your specialty, so describe to us maybe the anatomy, the physiology of the lungs, and then we’ll get into what COVID-19 does in the lungs.


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] Sure. Well, thank you for inviting me today. The lung is a complex organ, and it has a lot of intricate structures. You can think of it as a tree; it’s called the bronchial tree, where the organ is divided into a conducting airway and a respiratory unit. Now, the conducting airway comprises of the trachea, the bronchi, the bronchioles, and ultimately into the alveoli, which is the respiratory unit of the lungs.


[DON MACKINTOSH] Those little sacs, right? Those little sacs inside?


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] That’s correct. You were born with about, on the average, about 500 million air sacs that are clustered in a grape-like fashion. And this is where gas exchange occurs.


[DON MACKINTOSH] In other words, when you breathe in, that’s how the oxygen goes from the outside and hooks up to your red blood cells?


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] That’s correct. So, you breathe in oxygen, you exhale carbon dioxide. So, that’s where the gas exchange occurs. And, you know, it’s an intricate process. When the hemoglobin molecule goes by the alveolar sac, that’s where oxygen gets absorbed and carbon dioxide gets excreted.


[DON MACKINTOSH] Okay, so, basically, you’re taking in the air, you’re getting rid of the trash, comes down that trachea, then into that, you know, kind of the tree, and right there those little sacs is where the air exchange takes place. So, what happens then, if we get something like COVID-19?


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] Well, if you think about it, the respiratory system, or, it’s one of the organ systems that is directly open to the environment.


[DON MACKINTOSH] So, when you breathe in, it goes right into your lungs.


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] So, you’re exposed to…That’s correct.


[DON MACKINTOSH] So, you’re exposed to everything you breathe in.




[DON MACKINTOSH] Okay, go ahead. Explain then what happens.


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] Well, that’s why the COVID-19 virus is easily transmitted because it’s open. I mean, the lungs are directly open to the environment. And so, which brings us to the question on how the virus is transmitted. It’s primarily transmitted through a droplet inhalation.


[DON MACKINTOSH] You mean, it’s like on a piece of, what would you say, water, that’s a droplet, and the virus is riding along on that droplet.


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] That’s correct, it goes into your nasal passageway and ultimately gets inhaled down into your lower respiratory tract. And that’s where it causes a lot of problems.


[DON MACKINTOSH] So, that probably is why sneezing is something you don’t want to do if you’re sick on somebody else.


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] That’s true because the droplet inhalation is really, you know, obtained from someone sneezing at you or coughing at you or someone sneezing on a surface that you ultimately touch, and then you touch your face, your mouth, your eyes, your nose; that’s how you inoculate the virus into your respiratory system.


[DON MACKINTOSH] So, that’s why we should be washing our hands. That’s why we should be cleaning places. That’s why, if we sneeze, we sneeze into our elbow, and if someone else sneezes, we put up our hands.


[DR. JOEL SEBANGAN] That’s true. I mean, we need to be mindful of where our hands are, right? We want to make sure that, if we are to touch our face, our mouth, our eyes, or nose, we have to wash our hands thoroughly to prevent the transmission of the virus.


[DON MACKINTOSH] Okay, well this gives us a good overview. We’re going to come back and talk with you a little bit more about some more of the mechanisms, but the basic take-home message is: Your lungs are open to the outside. Be careful what you’re allowing in those. Make sure and wash your hands. Don’t be sneezing or be sneezed on because you don’t want to get that down into those air sacs.


Thank you so much, doctor, and we’ll talk more. And I think we now know why we have to have those clean hands and make sure that we’re not being sneezed on.


Thank you for joining us today, and we’ll be back with another episode on the lungs with Dr. Sebangan.


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