Mental confusion can be a primary COVID-19 symptom: Study

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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COVID-19 Mental Confusion
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According to a recent study, the early symptoms of COVID-19 especially in elderly people can be delirium or mental confusion along with a fever.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology and Immunotherapy, points out that along with the loss of the senses like taste and smell, headaches, coughing and breathing difficulties, in some patients delirium may also be visible.

When a person shows the symptoms of a state of confusion accompanied by high fever it should be considered as early evidence of the COVID-19, particularly in the case of elderly patients.

“Delirium is a state of confusion in which the person feels out of touch with reality as if they are dreaming. We need to be on the alert, particularly in an epidemiological situation like this, because an individual presenting certain signs of confusion may be an indication of infection,” says Javier Correa from the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) in Spain who conducted this study at the University of Bordeaux in France.

Mr. Correa has evaluated the scientific work published on the effects of COVID-19 concerning the central nervous system which is the brain, together with UOC researcher Diego Redolar Ripoll.

The evaluation of the study revealed that there are several signs that the coronavirus also affects the brain and produces neurocognitive changes like headaches and delirium as well as psychosis.

“The main hypotheses which explain how the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 affects the brain point to three possible causes hypoxia or neuronal oxygen deficiency, inflammation of brain tissue due to cytokine storm and the fact that the virus can cross the blood-brain barrier to directly invade the brain,” said Mr. Correa. He added that these factors can push a person into delirium.

The study says that, when autopsies were carried out on people who have died due to the infection, proof of hypoxia-related brain damage has been seen and they were able to isolate the virus from the cerebral tissue, Mr. Correa said.

As per the study, the chances of delirium, cognitive deficits and behavioral irregularities are most expected in systemic inflammation of the organ and a state of hypoxia. It also causes inflammation and damage in neuronal tissue in areas like the hippocampus, which is an important part of the limbic system that regulates emotion, learning and memory.

This is the reason for the cognitive dysfunctions and behavioral changes visible in patients suffering delirium, the study adds.