Covid-19 linked to neurological problems

Mexico City, Jul 13 (efe-epa).- Though coronavirus is primarily a respiratory illness, it has also shown the ability to affect the brain, the chief neurosurgeon at a Mexican hospital told Efe Monday.

Physicians noted at an early stage of the pandemic that some people with Covid-19 lose their sense of smell or taste, but in the most severe instances, the virus can cause a stroke.

The brain consumes nearly 20 percent of the oxygen that circulates in the human body “and if we have a respiratory problem that impairs adequate oxygenation, the brain will be affected,” Dr. Arturo Ayala Arcipreste said.

Too large a drop in blood oxygen levels can lead to clotting, which can in turn spur a stroke, the head of neurosurgery at Mexico City’s Juarez Hospital said.

“In the patients in serious condition, when they have a stroke, the mortality rate is very high,” Ayala Arcipreste said, quantifying the likelihood of death under those circumstances at roughly 80 percent.

The coronavirus produces hyperinflammation throughout the body and the consequences of that can include irreversible neurological damage.

Patients can be “left with significant neurological impacts, they can’t move or can’t speak,” the doctor said.

Experience shows that a sudden loss of the ability to smell or taste can be an early symptom of Covid-19. Ayala Arcipreste suspects the effect on those senses is associated with a relatively mild form of the virus.

For those individuals, the loss of smell or taste is temporary.

But the effects in patients with neurological damage from coronavirus may be permanent, owing to a destruction of connections between sense organs and the relevant receptors in the brain, the neurosurgeon told Efe.

Cardiac events and strokes are among the leading causes of death worldwide and Covid-19 is emerging as a new element of “comorbidity” – the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient – with the potential to cause or aggravate heart and neurological conditions.

The most frequent comorbidities associated with strokes are “hypertension, diabetes, having disorders of the heart, in your cholesterol and, of course, obesity,” Ayala Arcipreste said.

Neurological damage sufficient to cause a stroke is irreversible and treatment needs to begin within four hours of when symptoms start to appear.

“We could not say that this condition is 100 percent treatable because these cases of (strokes related to) Covid are new to the world,” the doctor said.

Besides urging people to take precautions such as wearing masks and frequent hand-washing, Ayala Arcipreste said it is important for those already living with chronic health conditions to stay on their medication, be careful about what they ear, stay hydrated, exercise and get adequate sleep.

“All of that is very simple, but it has be stressed more and more all the time,” he said.

Mexico’s death toll from Covid-19 climbed above 35,000 on Sunday. Only the United States, Brazil and the United Kingdom have suffered more fatalities from the virus.

The Aztec nation has nearly 300,000 confirmed cases, the seventh-highest total in the world. EFE csr/dr

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