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Study shows coronavirus affects not only lungs, but also the brain

Dr. David Wang (Barrow Neurological Institute)

PHOENIX — A new study finds the coronavirus can affect not only the lungs but also the brain.

The study looked at more than 200 patients in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus pandemic started.

It found more than a third of patients presented neurological symptoms, such as loss of smell or taste, muscle pain and some confusion.

These symptoms can occur early on and before typical COVID-19 symptoms, such as cough and fever.

Dr. David Wang, a neurologist with the Barrow Neurological Institute, collaborated with researchers in China on the study.

He said the study also finds that nearly half of the patients had neurological symptoms in severe coronavirus cases.

“Really ill patients – those patients that are in ICU settings – they are more likely to develop clotting problems, causing strokes or heart attacks or pulmonary embolism,” Wang said.

Another study by the University of California San Diego had similar findings.

According to that study, the loss of smell and taste has been found in COVID-19 patients in the United States.

“Based on our study, if you have smell and taste loss, you are more than 10 times more likely to have COVID-19 infection than other causes of infection,” stated Dr. Carol Yan, an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon at UC San Diego Health.

Wang said symptoms – such as fever, cough and fatigue – continue to be the most common for COVID-19 patients. But he said neurological symptoms should also be considered.

“Patients and healthcare providers should watch out for that,” he said. “If these patients present these symptoms, they should be tested for COVID-19.”

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