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A small percentage of coronavirus patients suffer neurological problems like stroke and seizures, a report said.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, shortness of breath and fever, but in rare cases, patients can exhibit an altered mental state, the New York Times reported.
Late last month In Michigan, a woman with coronavirus told doctors her name, but there was little else she could provide. A brain scan showed swelling and inflammation. She was diagnosed with acute necrotizing encephalopathy, a rare complication from some viruses, including the flu, and remains in critical condition, according to the Times.
“The pattern of involvement, and the way that it rapidly progressed over days, is consistent with viral inflammation of the brain,” Dr. Elissa Fory, a neurologist with Henry Ford Health System, told The Times. “This may indicate the virus can invade the brain directly in rare circumstances.”
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Earlier in March, a man with Parkinson’s who was later diagnosed with coronavirus lost the ability to speak and suffered a seizure.
Four older patients in Connecticut who originally went to the doctor for neurological symptoms but no cough or fever were also diagnosed with the virus.
In Italy, doctors have similarly documented patients experiencing strokes, seizures and delirium.
“There’s no ventilator for the brain,” Dr. Sherry H-Y. Chou, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told The Times. “If the lungs are broken we can put the patient on a ventilator and hope for recovery. We don’t have that luxury with the brain.”
Doctors stress the vast majority of coronavirus patients have no neurological symptoms, but more research needs to be done on the phenomenon.
“It could be as simple as low levels of oxygen in the bloodstream,” Dr. Robert Stevens, a neurologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, speculated on the symptoms.
Similar symptoms have been reported in other countries, including China where doctors were first to note them.
“New confusion or inability to rouse” is also one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s warning signs for the virus.
Dr. Jennifer Frontera, a neurologist at N.Y.U. Langone Health, told The Times the symptoms can be subtle.
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“You don’t feel your best when you have a fever, but you should be able to interact normally,” she said. “You should be able to answer questions and converse in a normal fashion.”
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