Covid-19 and Neurology

Wearing personal protective equipment before entering the intensive care unit

Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, has transformed the NHS. The neurology team has been helping with the care of sick patients in the medical wards and continuing to see patients with neurological illness in the hospital. We have been playing our own small role, but are in awe of the work of many of our colleagues in respiratory medicine and intensive care medicine, as well as the other staff including porters, caterers, cleaners, pharmacists, therapists and nurses.

It is too early to know the extent of neurological disease with Covid-19. However, it is recognised that 10-50% of people with the infection may have loss of smell or taste initially. This may be due to damage to the nerves that process smell inside our noses. The infection also seems to increase the risk of stroke in patients. At our hospital, we have seen a slight increase in a rare cause of weakness, called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which sometimes happens after infections. In addition, we have seen intensive care unit patients with possible brain infection (the photo is of me just before seeing two such patients).

Thankfully, despite the neurological illnesses we have encountered, it is starting to look like Covid-19 only rarely affects the brain or nervous system, unlike Zika virus, for example. We will learn much more in the next few months.

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