Odd Virus Symptoms Crop Up: 'There's No Ventilator for the Brain'

Seizures, dizziness, and 'altered mental status' observed in some COVID-19 patients
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2020 11:00 AM CDT
For Some Virus Patients, Odd Neurological Symptoms
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Pixfly)

Chris Cuomo recently described his COVID-19 symptoms, and in addition to the fever, shivering, and body aches typically associated with the coronavirus, the CNN anchor relayed a "freaky" anecdote about hallucinating images of his late father and other people from his past. It's not clear exactly what happened in his case, but it may sync with a New York Times report about a small group of virus patients around the world who've shown an "altered mental status," or encephalopathy. These patients are exhibiting signs of confusion, seizures, dizziness, headaches, stroke, and other neurologically linked symptoms—one COVID-19 patient cited by the Times couldn't tell doctors his name or what ailed him, because he'd apparently "lost his ability to speak."

Newsweek focuses on another patient in Detroit diagnosed with a rare type of brain damage known as acute necrotizing hemorrhagic encephalopathy, previously seen in patients with other viral infections. "This may indicate the virus can invade the brain directly in rare circumstances," a Henry Ford Health System neurologist tells the Times. Doctors are being warned to keep an eye out for other strange symptoms such as blood clots, signs of brain inflammation, tingling or numbness in the extremities, and a reduction or loss of the sense of taste or smell. The neurological symptoms, however—for which there's not yet a definitive cause and which don't affect most coronavirus patients—should especially be on doctors' radars. "If the lungs are broken we can put the patient on a ventilator and hope for recovery," a University of Pittsburgh neurologist says. "There's no ventilator for the brain." (More coronavirus stories.)

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