New reports on the novel coronavirus are showing that as many as one-third of infected patients have developed neurological symptoms as a result of the disease. Though some of these neurological effects are on the milder end of the spectrum, others are serious enough to potentially lead to paralysis.
According to Science Alert, health experts have recently confirmed that the virus — which affects primarily the lungs and the heart — can also travel to the brain.
Studies conducted in both China and France have found that over a third of COVID-19 patients, or 36 percent, have concurrent neurological symptoms. Though a majority of those affected reported less worrying problems such as headache or dizziness, others described far more serious issues, including muscle weakness, encephalitis, and seizures.
Others described having hallucinations, such as CNN host Chris Cuomo. Cuomo previously claimed he believed he could talk to his late father during his bout with the disease.
Neurological symptoms are more common in serious cases of COVID-19, with a prevalence ranging between 46 to 84 percent of critical cases.
However, that does not mean that they are not present in less severe incidences. In fact, stroke appears to be a growing trend in young people infected with mild cases.
“Our report shows a seven-fold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks. Most of these patients have no past medical history and were at home with either mild symptoms (or in two cases, no symptoms) of COVID,” described Dr. Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, via CNN.
In an even more worrying note, recent data appears to suggest that the neurological problems will persist even after treatment.
In some of the worst-case scenarios, patients developed Guillain–Barré syndrome, which is a serious neurological disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks nerve cells in its response to a bacterial or viral infection, like the coronavirus. The illness results in increasing muscle weakness and ends with paralysis. The first symptoms of the disease include a tingling in the feet and legs — which has also been reported as a sign of COVID-19.
It is not entirely surprising that COVID-19 reportedly causes neurological symptoms, considering how other strains of coronavirus have caused similar effects.
For example, the related coronavirus HCoV-OC43 can lead to encephalitis in infected patients. The strain connected to both MERS and SARS is also known to “cause severe neurological disorders.”
However, the new findings will likely be another factor that health experts and government officials take into account amidst the ongoing battle against the pandemic.