On March 17 this year, a man was taken to hospital in Israel suffering from a dry cough and a loss of sense of smell. He developed a fever and felt tired but, after three days as an in-patient, was released to quarantine. Then something strange started happening.
His handwriting changed. It became smaller, crabbed and unreadable. Not just that, but he struggled to speak clearly or write texts on his phone. His right hand began to tremble. Eventually, symptoms became so bad that he returned to hospital, this time to the department of neurology, dealing in disorders of the brain and nervous system. A battery of tests was performed. Then doctors gave him a devastating diagnosis: Parkinson’s. The man was just 45. It was two months since his positive test for Covid-19.
This case, newly described, is not unique. Across the world, doctors have noticed that Covid is often accompanied not just by the familiar shortness of breath and coughing that affect the body, but also by a huge range of conditions hitting the brain – from foggy thinking, through delirium, all the way to strokes and Parkinsonism.
So serious was this in Britain that, as the pandemic took hold early this year, doctors set up a monthly committee to coordinate reports of brain disorders. Neurologist Dr Hadi Manji was among them. Very quickly, he says: “We had to make the meeting weekly because of the numbers of referrals.”
Indeed, new research from Chicago reports that one third of Covid patients hospitalised early in the pandemic suffered some form of altered mental state – from confusion to unresponsiveness. That in itself is not so unusual. Being seriously ill affects lucidity. According to Mary Ni Lochlainn, fellow in Geriatric Medicine at King’s College London, up to 80 per cent of those in intensive care suffer delirium. But the consequences with Covid, the Chicago statistics suggest, are dramatic. Those with brain disorders needed three times as long in hospital as those without and were seven times more likely to die. On discharge only a third could perform routine tasks.
Image Credit: iMrSquid
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