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One in three virus survivors suffer from long term brain disorders

Woman with a headache
Image Source: ABC News

Researchers studied more than 236,000 patients, mainly in the U.S., finding that 34% of survivors were diagnosed with a neurological or psychological condition within six months of infection. Researchers call it the most extensive study to date on the connection between coronavirus and brain health.

The neurological effects were more severe among patients who had been hospitalized but remained common even in less severe cases. Mood disorders were the second-most common diagnosis, at 14%, followed by substance misuse disorders at 7%, and insomnia at 5%. Neurological diagnoses, like stroke and dementia, were rarer but not uncommon. 

Researchers compared the electronic health records of virus patients to those who experienced other respiratory infections during the same period. Considering underlying health characteristics, they found that those with the virus had a 44% higher chance of neurological or psychiatric diagnoses than patients recovering from influenza and a 16% greater risk than those with other respiratory tract infections.

Because the study was observational, researchers could only note associations, not causality. However, experts not involved in the study remain concerned by the findings.

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Rex Jackson
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