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Dry cough. Fever. Those were the first signs of a COVID-19 infection that we were alerted to.
Now, almost daily, we’re learning how this virus has the potential to trick us.
Flu symptoms? Could be COVID-19. Stomach problems but no other flu symptoms? Could be COVID-19.
It’s enough to send our anxiety through the roof every time we have the least physical complaint.
But the other side of that coin is that knowing about these potential symptoms could save a life, possibly yours or that of a friend or family member.
It takes a little mental work to avoid falling into a panic at the first sniffle. But we believe that the more you know, the less of that you’ll experience since you’ll be working from facts, not just vague worries.
Here’s a true story from the front lines about yet another possible symptom of the virus.
Sudden signs of dementia from COVID-19
Frank Carter was an active 82-year-old who enjoyed rising early to do yard work and renovation projects around the house.
When he began staying in bed until noon, his daughter Nicole took notice.
Frank said he felt fine, in spite of some nausea and vomiting. Nicole, who is a nurse, suspected he was dehydrated and took some supplies to his home to give him intravenous fluids.
Her father had never shown any signs of dementia, yet now he seemed unaware of his surroundings. He didn’t react at all when Nicole put an IV needle into his arm.
“It was like he was sedated,” she said.
Nicole believes that this delirium was one of the first signs that her father had been infected with the coronavirus.
He died a week later.
Evidence that the virus can affect the brain…
Again, science is not yet sure how, but there is more and more evidence that the coronavirus can damage not just the heart and lungs, but the brain as well.
A recent study of 214 patients in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic started, found that more than a third had neurologic signs of the disease, including loss of consciousness and stroke.
And doctors in the United States have noticed the same thing.
Dr. Johanna Fifi is the associate director of the cerebrovascular center at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.
She reports that she and her team are seeing “a significant increase in the number of [COVID-19] patients with large strokes.” Many are not older people, either, but patients in their 30s and 40s.
Over a recent two-week period, Dr. Fifi saw five COVID-19 patients under 49 with strokes caused by the blockage of one of the major blood vessels leading to the brain.
This kind of thing has sent researchers on a hunt for just how the virus is affecting the brain.
It’s possible that inflammation in the body is damaging blood vessels in the brain or that the viral infection leads to increased clotting.
Or, there’s another, more straightforward possibility.
Because we have no immunity to this new virus, it’s possible that it can attack any part of the body… including the brain.
“This virus goes into your nose, and says, ‘I’m just going to attack the first thing I see.’ That’s the respiratory tract,” says Dr. E. Wesley Ely, professor of medicine and critical care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center
But the fact that many infected persons report losing their sense of taste and smell “makes us highly suspicious that … the cranial nerves may be affected by the virus,” says Dr. Felicia Chow, assistant professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.
“That’s something that still needs to be teased apart and figured out.”
No matter the cause, respond to stroke symptoms immediately
The story of Frank Carter is an object lesson in two ways.
First, it should help you remain alert to yet another possible set of symptoms of the coronavirus.
Second, whether it’s originating from the virus or not, if you or a loved one have any stroke symptoms, including:
- Sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Call 911 immediately.
We’ve learned COVID-19 is not your typical virus and that we can expect to see it make the rounds again during flu season in the coming years. Hopefully, by then, the researchers will have a tried and true vaccination. But it’s important to be aware of just how dangerous this illness can be and take every precaution.
Editor’s note: No matter how careful you are about doing all the right things for a healthy brain, one medication could possibly wipe it all out. That’s because a popular drug makes it FOUR times more likely you’ll lose your memories. Are you taking it? Click here to find out…