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Covid may cause long-term brain injury, study finds

The Independent logo The Independent 23/09/2022 Graeme Massie
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Scientists have found that people who get Covid are at increased risk of brain injuries a year after infection than those who have not had the virus.

US researchers said strokes, seizures, memory problems and movement disorders are among the issues suffered by patients after the virus.

Brain and neurological disorders happened 7 per cent more in those people who got Covid compared to those who avoided it, found researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.

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The year-long study, which was published in Nature Medicine, looked at 44 brain disorders using medical records from millions of US veterans.

Scientists said their findings translate into around 6.6 million Americans having brain impairments linked to their Covid infections.

“The results show the devastating long-term effects of Covid-19,” senior author Dr Ziyad Al-Aly of Washington University School of Medicine said in a statement.

Researchers looked at the medical records of 154,000 US veterans who tested positive for Covid from 1 March 2020 to 15 January 2021.

They compared these records with those of 5.6 million patients who did not have Covid during the same period, and 5.8 million people from just before Covid hit the US.

The study found that memory impairment, often referred to as brain fog, was the most common symptom among those who got the virus.

People who got Covid had a 77 per cent higher risk of suffering memory problems, the study found.

Those who had Covid were 80 per cent more likely to have seizures, 43 per cent more likely to have mental health issues such as depression or anxiety and 35 per cent more likely to suffer headaches.

They were also 42 per cent more likely to suffer movement issues such as tremors in comparison to the control group.

“Given the colossal scale of the pandemic, meeting these challenges requires urgent and coordinated – but, so far, absent – global, national and regional response strategies,” Dr Al-Aly said.

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