10/18 News Flash 1: About 1 in 7 people infected with COVID-19 experience neurological damage

Graphic by Ishani Singh.

While the best-known coronavirus symptoms include fever, loss of smell, and shortness of breath, about one in seven people infected with COVID-19 also experience neurological damage, according to a new study. 

Researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine observed 4,491 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York City and determined that 13.5%of those patients had been diagnosed with a new neurological dysfunction within a median of two days after contracting the virus. Of these neurological complications, the most common included confusion, seizure, stroke, and hypoxic/ischemic injury –– brain damage caused by oxygen deficiency in the brain. Those with a higher risk of developing a neurological disorder included patients who were white, older, male, diabetic, and hypertensive. 

SARS-CoV-2, or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, notably targets the lungs, depriving the body and brain of the oxygen necessary to function. Insufficient levels of oxygen cause brain injury that can lead to permanent brain damage. Patients with neurological disorders due to COVID-19 are thirty-eight percent more likely to die during hospitalization. The investigators concluded that therapies focused on raising and stabilizing oxygen levels in the body are a potential solution to preventing and possibly repairing neurological injuries.