The novel coronavirus was thought to be a disease that primarily impacts older individuals, but a surprising finding shows young, otherwise healthy people are experiencing stroke as an early symptom of the infection.
“I want to start by saying that those are preliminary results on a small number of patients and it was a snapshot from March 20 until April 10. So, not enough to draw conclusions, but enough to raise awareness,” said Dr. Pascal Jabbour, Professor of Neurological Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
While Jabbour noted they were preliminary results, he pointed to the high number of young patients suffering strokes.
“We noticed that the incidents of COVID in patients presenting with a stroke was higher than the usual — relatively high — and 50% of those patients were young patients, 50 and below. Fifty percent of the whole series did not have any risk factors for stroke,” he said.
The average age for stroke is someone in their 70s.
Jabbour said some patients did not know they had COVID-19 and they presented to the hospital with a stroke as their first symptom.
One theory, according to Jabbour, is the inflammation reaction that the virus is causing. This inflammation reaction increases some inflammation proteins in the blood and those can trigger the blood to clot.
Jabbour also warned that some people are delaying treatment out of fear of going to a hospital during the pandemic. He urged anyone with stroke symptoms to call 911.
He said some patients may benefit from anti-clotting medications, but more research would be needed.
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Pascal Jabbour MD – Chief of the Division of Neurovascular Surgery at the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience at Jefferson Health