Neurological symptoms of COVID-19: What we know and don’t know

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic; fever, cough, and shortness of breath were the main symptoms associated with the virus. But as scientists learn more about COVID-19, neurological symptoms are becoming more apparent.

We spoke to Dane Chetkovich, MD, PhD, and Chairman of Neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center about the neurological symptoms of COVID-19.

“Pretty much any aspect of the nervous system can be affected by the virus or the body’s immune response to the virus. So that goes for muscles, nerves, and the brain itself. An early neurological symptom that was recognized pretty early on was the loss of smell.” 

Research on these neurological symptoms is ongoing. These symptoms range from mild, like the loss of smell, to severe.

According to Chetkovich, doctors have small numbers of patients who have strokes and who have what’s called Guillain-Barré syndrome. It’s a nerve disorder that causes weakness and can be very serious.

Many of those with severe cases of COVID-19 have to be intubated or ventilated. Dr. Chetkovich tells us that the longer someone is ventilated the more likely they are to have neurological complications.

“The longer that you are in the ICU, the longer that you are on a breathing machine, the more likely you are to have things like cognitive impairment or nerve or muscle damage.”

While scientists and doctors learn more about the virus that causes COVID-19 every day, there is still a lot to be discovered. Until a vaccine is ready, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to continue with social distancing measures and hand washing.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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