Researchers link severe COVID-19 cases to mental decline equal to aging a decade

People that have suffered severe cases of COVID-19 may experience mental decline equal to the brain aging by a decade, according to a new study released this month.  

Researchers from the U.K. analyzed the test data of over 84,000 participants who took the Great British Intelligence Test and were suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. 

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that people who had recovered from severe cases of the disease exhibited “significant cognitive deficit” after controlling for other factors such as age, gender and pre-existing medical conditions. 

Some deficits were of “substantial effect size,” the researchers found, specifically among those who had been hospitalized and those who had mild cases and reported no difficulty breathing. However, among those who ended up on a ventilator, the deficits were “equivalent to the average 10-year decline in global performance between the ages of 20 to 70.” 

The cognitive decline could be the result of other health events that are thought to be associated with COVID-19 such as stoke, inflammatory syndrome and micro bleeds, according to the study.

COVID-19 is a disease that can have critical impacts on the upper respiratory system, leading patients with severe cases to require supplemental oxygen. As a result, researchers in the study have also hypothesized that hypoxia in the brain could also lead to cognitive decline. 

However, they write, “it is yet to be established whether COVID-19 infection is associated with cognitive impairment at the population level; and if so, how this differs with respiratory symptom severity and relatedly, hospitalisation status. Measuring such associations is challenging.”

In all, the scientists said that their findings “align with the view that there are chronic cognitive consequences of having COVID-19. Individuals who recovered from suspected or confirmed COVID-19 perform worse on cognitive tests in multiple domains than would be expected given their detailed age and demographic profiles.” 

The researchers said their study should be a “clarion call” for more research into the basis cognitive deficits in recovered COVID-19 patients. 

Some scientists say that the study’s results should be viewed cautiously. 

Derek Hill, a professor of medical imaging science at University College London, told Reuters that the study did not compare before and after scores of participants, and that a large number of them only self-reported having the virus without a positive test. 

“Overall (this is) an intriguing but inconclusive piece of research into the effect of COVID on the brain,” Hill told Reuters. “As researchers seek to better understand the long term impact of COVID, it will be important to further investigate the extent to which cognition is impacted in the weeks and months after the infection, and whether permanent damage to brain function results in some people.”

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Cites Link to Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Importance of Early Detection

Echosens, a high-technology company offering the FibroScan family of products, urges increased awareness of the rise of liver cancer rates, which have more than tripled since 1980, while death rates have more than doubled during this time. About 21,000 Americans are diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year—twice as common in men than in women. Risk factors include other liver diseases, including cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis C and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD may be a key driver of increased cancer associated with obesity, while non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the fastest growing cause of liver cancer among transplant candidates.

“People with NAFLD have higher rates of several types of cancer, with the greatest increase seen for liver cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers,” says Jon Gingrich, CEO, Echosens North America. “Point-of-care examinations, monitoring and ongoing assessment of liver fat and stiffness as provided by FibroScan, a rapid, non-invasive point of care examination, can identify individuals who are asymptomatic and undiagnosed for liver damage.”

Researchers have found that liver cancer, NAFLD, hepatitis C and liver transplants are prevalent in 40-80% of people who have Type 2 diabetes and in 30-90% of people who are obese. Being overweight or obese is responsible for about 85% of fatty liver disease.

“Approximately 30,000 people die from liver cancer each year and these numbers have continued to rise in recent years,” says Lynn Gardner Seim, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, American Liver Foundation. “It is essential that patients at risk for liver cancer, including those who have previously been diagnosed with hepatitis C, NAFLD, NASH and other liver diseases, talk with their doctors and have a plan in place for getting screened.”

Traditional approaches to assessing liver health, such as liver biopsy and advanced radiological imaging, may not be cost effective nor accessible to the broader at-risk population. FibroScan directly measures physical properties of stiffness and fat liver to provide reproducible results and allow for both diagnosis and monitoring of liver stiffness and liver fat. It is also recognized worldwide as the reference for non-invasive liver diagnosis supported with more than 2,000 medical publications and 40 guideline recommendations.

About Echosens

Echosens, the developer of FibroScan®, is an innovative high-technology company offering a full range of products and services supporting physicians in their assessment and management of patients with chronic liver diseases. FibroScan is supported by over 2,500 peer-reviewed publications and examinations are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and many insurance plans. For more information, please visit http://www.echosens.us and follow us on Twitter (@echosensNA).

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201026005599/en/

Contacts

Media:
Brittany Tedesco
CPR Communications
[email protected]
201.641.1911 x 14

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South Korean officials find no direct link between flu vaccine and recent deaths

The country’s government has rolled out a flu vaccine campaign, concerned about the potential simultaneous spread of coronavirus and influenza.

At least 36 people have died after taking flu vaccinations since last Friday, including a 17-year-old. The average age of those who died was 74, according to the South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

As of Friday, more than 14 million people had gotten the flu vaccine, of which 9.4 million were children, elderly, and pregnant women, according to the KDCA.

Ki Moran, a professor at South Korea’s National Cancer Centre, said the flu vaccine is known to cause serious side effects in one out of 10 million people.

In 2019, 227,000 people over the age of 65 died in South Korea, she added. That’s an average of 621 deaths a day, to put the recent figures into perspective.

The KDCA decided on Friday not to suspend the flu vaccinations. The vaccination expert committee will hold a meeting Saturday morning to review additional data, according to a KDCA statement.

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The KDCA’s Friday meeting came after rising scrutiny from experts and politicians.

On Friday, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for a thorough investigation into the deaths, citing public anxiety, according to a press release by the Health Ministry. He did not call for a halt to the vaccination campaign.

The Korean Medical Association, a coalition of 130,000 doctors, has urged the government to suspend the vaccination program for a week until they determined the cause of the deaths.

In a statement, the Korean Vaccine Society emphasized the importance of the flu vaccine, especially “for children, the elderly, and patients with chronic diseases and low immune system.” The organization cited concerns about the possible spread of flu during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experts globally are preparing for flu season in the middle of the pandemic. “This is a critical year for us to try to take flu as much off the table as we can,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview with the AMA’s JAMA Network.

One reason is to decrease the strain on public health services and hospitals, which are bracing for a winter wave. Experts say it possible to get Covid-19 and the flu simultaneously — and, because flu symptoms look so similar to that of Covid-19, it will be impossible to rule out a coronavirus diagnosis without a test. That means a case of the flu can cause substantial disruption to work and school.

In South Korea, Covid-19 has infected 25,775 people and killed 457, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Amid Wisconsin coronavirus outbreak, researchers explore link between college cases, nursing home deaths

For most of 2020, La Crosse’s nursing homes had lost no one to covid-19. In recent weeks, the county has recorded 19 deaths, most of them in long-term care facilities. Everyone who died was over 60. Fifteen of the victims were 80 or older. The spike offers a vivid illustration of the perils of pushing a herd-immunity strategy, as infections among younger people can fuel broader community outbreaks that ultimately kill some of the most vulnerable residents.

“It was the very thing we worried about, and it has happened,” Kabat said.

Local efforts to contain the outbreak have been hamstrung by a statewide campaign to block public health measures, including mask requirements and limits on taverns, he added. “Your first responsibility as a local government is really to protect the health and safety and welfare of your residents,” he said. “When you feel like that’s not happening and you have few tools or resources available to change that, it’s more than frustrating.”

As the number of coronavirus infections continue to soar in the upper Midwest, few places embody the nation’s divisions over how to tackle the pandemic better than Wisconsin. Even as the state’s weekly caseload has quadrupled in the past six weeks, bar owners and Republicans have thwarted some restrictions on public indoor gatherings, leaving public health professionals scrambling to contain the virus.

Wisconsin ranks fourth among states in daily reported cases per capita, with 59 per 100,000 residents. According to The Washington Post’s analysis of state health data, in the past week new daily reported cases have gone up more than 20 percent, hospitalizations have increased more than 26 percent and daily reported deaths have risen 22 percent.

In recent briefings, Wisconsin health secretary designee Andrea Palm said the state is doing worse than it was in March and April and has pleaded with residents to avoid going to bars and to practice social distancing.

“Wisconsin is in crisis, and we need to take this seriously,” Palm said last week.

Last week a judge in Wisconsin’s Sawyer County temporarily blocked an order from Gov. Tony Evers (D) limiting crowds in bars, restaurants and other indoor spaces to 25 percent of capacity, though a judge in Barron County reinstated it Tuesday. The Tavern League of Wisconsin, which represents the state’s bars, argued it amounted to a “de facto closure.” In May, the state Supreme Court struck down Evers’s “Safer at Home” order after Republican lawmakers challenged it, and a conservative activist has just sued to block Wisconsin’s statewide mask mandate.

Elizabeth Cogbill, who specializes in geriatrics and internal medicine in the Gundersen Health System, has been working 14-hour days since the pandemic began, staying late to talk to families who can no longer visit their elderly relatives.

Since June, Cogbill has been working with the county, other medical professionals and nursing home officials to curb coronavirus infections. They had managed to stifle several flare-ups without a death, until September.

In an interview, the 41-year-old doctor said that as the

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