United Kingdom

Coronavirus puts you eight times more at risk of stroke than flu

Coronavirus patients are more likely to suffer from a stroke compared to flu patients, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City found that 1.6 percent of those with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, experienced a stroke.

By comparison, just 0.2 percent of patients with influenza had a stroke caused by blockage in the brain, making their risk of the medical condition eight times less likely than those with coronavirus. 

None of the flu patients who suffered a stroke died, but nine of the coronavirus patients did. 

Of more than 1,900 patients either in the ER or hospitalized with coronavirus, 1.6% suffered an ischemic stroke compared to 0.2% of flu patients. Pictured: Lt Natasha McClinton, an OR nurse, prepares a patient for a procedure in the ICU aboard the US hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York City, April 23

About 26% of coronavirus patients arrived at the ER complaining of stroke symptoms while 74% developed one while hospitalized (above)

Researchers studied the risk of ischemic strokes, which occur when blood flow is blocked to the brain.

They are more difficult to treat and deadlier than hemorrhagic strokes, which occurs when a weakened vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds into the organ.

About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, according to the American Stroke Association.

They were compared with 1,486 patients who visited the ER or were hospitalized with influenza from January 1, 2016 through May 31, 2018. 

Results showed that 31 coronavirus patients - or 1.6 percent - suffered a stroke.

About 26 percent arrived at the ER complaining of stroke symptoms while 74 percent developed one while hospitalized.

One-third of coronavirus patients who suffered a stroke had severe cases and were on mechanical ventilators. 

Fatality rates were higher among patients with COVID-19 with ischemic stroke with 32 percent dying compared to vs 14 percent of COVID-19 patients without ischemic stroke who died.

However, just three flu patients - a mere 0.2 percent - also suffered a stroke.

On average, flu patients were younger, female and had fewer underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease. 

'The proportion of patients with ED visits and hospitalizations with COVID-19 who had an acute ischemic stroke was higher than the proportion seen in patients who visited the ED or were hospitalized with influenza.' the authors wrote.

'These findings suggest that clinicians should be vigilant for symptoms and signs of acute ischemic stroke in patients with COVID-19 so that time-sensitive interventions...can be instituted if possible to reduce the burden of long-term disability.'

In the US, there are more than 2.6 million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 128,000 deaths. 

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