What is a ventilator, and why do some coronavirus patients need one?

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Treating patients with severe cases of the novel coronavirus disease often requires the use of ventilators — a piece of equipment that’s in short supply in some global hot spots.

But what exactly do ventilators do, and why are they so important in treating COVID-19 patients?

READ MORE: 30,000 ventilators to be made in Canada amid coronavirus pandemic, Trudeau says

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Ventilators deliver oxygen to the lungs, which is an important part of treating severe coronavirus cases, said Dr. Azad Mashari, a Toronto-based anesthesiologist and lecturer in the University of Toronto’s department of anesthesia.

The novel coronavirus causes a respiratory infection that can make it difficult for people who have COVID-19 — the disease caused by the virus — to breathe.

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“Ventilators are not a treatment, per se, they’re considered what’s called supportive therapy,” Mashari said.

Typically, infections are treated with antibiotics, Mashari said, and ventilators are used to help the body function while underlying problems are treated.

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