Coronavirus is causing blood clots and sudden strokes in otherwise healthy patients in their 30s and 40s, doctors report
- Strokes are caused when a blood clot reaches the brain, destroying the cells
- A team of New York doctors has seen a seven-fold increase in young patients
- Some had little or no symptoms of Covid-19 or were reluctant to call 911
- Doctors are seeing a link between Covid-19 and blood clots but are unsure why
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Doctors have warned that the coronavirus looks to be causing strokes among adults in their 30s and 40s who otherwise are not particularly unwell, or even not showing any symptoms of the virus at all.
They have also said that younger people are less likely to call 911 and seek treatment because they fear the hospitals are overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.
There is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that the Covid-19 infection makes patients more prone to blood clots, and while the reason behind this is unclear, a stroke can be a consequence of that.
Strokes occur when a blood clot reaches the brain, blocking an artery that supplies blood to the vital organ.
A team of doctors working in the Mount Sinai health system have found otherwise healthy younger patients are experiencing strokes after contracting the coronavirus
Giving details of five patients he and his colleagues have treated, Dr. Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon in the Mount Sinai Health System in New York told CNN that all were under the age of 50, and either had mild or no symptoms of the Covid-19 infection.
‘The virus seems to be causing increased clotting in the large arteries, leading to severe stroke,’ Oxley told CNN. ‘Our report shows a seven-fold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks.
‘Most of these patients have no past medical history and were at home with either mild symptoms (or in two cases, no symptoms) of Covid,’ he added. ‘All tested positive. Two of them delayed calling an ambulance.’
For younger patients, it is not common to have a stroke, especially in the large vessels in the brain. A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine from Oxley’s team said that over the last 12 months, their hospital system has treated just an average of 0.73 patients for stroke under the age of 50 years old.
Dr. Thomas Oxley, pictured, said his team had seen a seven-fold increase in the number of young patients being treated for strokes in the last two weeks
That’s fewer than two people a month, stark contrast to the five they have treated in the last two weeks.
Doctors have said younger patients are less likely to call for an ambulance because they have heard how overwhelmed hospitals are with coronavirus cases, but have urged them to do so if they show symptoms of the virus or of a stroke.
Other doctors are reporting that they are seeing ‘unprecedented’ levels of blood clotting in coronavirus patients, according to a separate CNN report.
Speaking about her experience treating Covid-19 patients in hospital, Dr. Kathryn Hibbert said that she has seen blood clotting before her eyes as she has been attempting to insert intravenous lines into a patient’s artery.
‘You just watch it clot right in front of you,’ said Hibbert, director of the medical intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. ‘It’s rare to have that happen once, and extremely rare to have that happen twice.’
If such blood clots travel to the heart or lungs it can cause a pulmonary embolism, which is also be life threatening, or to the brain and cause a stroke.
A hematologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, Dr. Jeffrey Laurence, told CNN: ‘The number of clotting problems I’m seeing in the ICU, all related to Covid-19, is unprecedented.’ He added that ‘blood clotting problems appear to be widespread in severe Covid.’
When a blood clot reaches the brain, brain cells die as they are not getting the necessary oxygen. The longer a blood clot is in the brain for, the more cells die and the damage to the brain becomes more widespread.
It is vital, therefore, that treatment is sought quickly. ‘The most effective treatment for large vessel stroke is clot retrieval, but this must be performed within 6 hours, and sometimes within 24 hours,’ Oxley said.
Younger patients were said to be reluctant to call 911 after hearing how overwhelmed hospitals have been, but with a stroke it is vital that it is treated quickly before it spreads. Pictured: A man with Covid-19 is transported on a stretcher outside Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City
Of the patients treated by Oxley’s team, all tested positive for the virus, one has died, while the others are in either rehabilitation units, the stroke unit or in intensive care. One has reportedly gone home but will also require intensive care there.
The doctor added that its important people keep an eye out for symptoms of the coronavirus infection, but to also call 911 if they see any evidence of a stroke.
Oxley added that stroke warning signs can be memorized using the ‘F.A.S.T’ acronym. ‘F’ for face drooping, ‘A’ for arm weakness, ‘S’ for speech difficulty and ‘T’ for time to call 911.
Why patients with the coronavirus are more prone to blood clots is ‘one of the most talked about questions in Covid right now’, Dr. Michelle Gong, chief of the division of critical care medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City said to CNN.
An international group of experts from ore than 30 hospitals have gathered to consider the issue.
At Montefiore medical center, they have reportedly started putting all coronavirus patients on blood thinners to prevent blood clots, but this practice is yet to be widely adopted elsewhere.
New York has been the worst hit state in the U.S. with 257,216 cases of the coronavirus confirmed, and 15,302 total deaths resulting from the disease
METHODS TO STOP CORONAVIRUS SPREADING
Infected people can spread a contagion to others via direct or indirect exposure.
An outbreak will continue to expand if the average number of people infected by each carrier is greater than one.
SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES
Prohibiting group gatherings, closing borders, advising people keep 1.5 metres apart, and confining people to their homes has been shown to halt the spread of coronavirus.
In this method the public does not gain immunity in large numbers and the virus could re-surge dramatically if controls are lifted.
People who recover from COVID-19 develop antibodies and immunity.
As the virus spreads through the population and more people develop immunity there are less people the virus can infect.
If enough people have immunity the outbreak will die away.
It is estimated about 30 per cent of people who catch the virus will not show symptoms and for many more the symptoms will not be serious.
This method produces a spike in infections which can overwhelm the healthcare system resulting in large numbers of fatalities.
A COVID-19 vaccine would be the safest and most effective way of controlling the outbreak.
There are several vaccines currently in development though they need to be tested which can take many months.
If a vaccine is rushed without proper testing there may be side-effects and complications.
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