Coronavirus said to be causing strokes in some younger patients

US doctors say newly discovered trend shows how much remains unknown about the novel pathogen, which has killed more than 200,000 people worldwide

Healthcare workers assist a COVID-19 patient at one of the intensive care units (ICU) of the Ramon y Cajal hospital in Madrid, Spain, on April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Healthcare workers assist a COVID-19 patient at one of the intensive care units (ICU) of the Ramon y Cajal hospital in Madrid, Spain, on April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

While the global COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected people in their 60s and older, medical professionals in the United States have begun reporting a small but growing number of younger people dying of what they believe to be coronavirus-related strokes.

According to The Washington Post, doctors and medical researchers at several hospitals have noted an uptick in victims in their 30s and 40s, well below the average age for strokes. Many of them suffered from large vessel occlusions, the most dangerous kind of stroke, with observers theorizing that this new phenomenon could be linked to blood clotting caused by the novel virus.

While The Post reported that the number of younger stroke victims is still small, the trend is important both because it is a significant departure from the norm and because of what it says about how little we still know about the effects of the coronavirus.

“We are used to thinking of 60 as a young patient when it comes to large vessel occlusions,” Eytan Raz, a researcher at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, told The Post. “We have never seen so many in their 50s, 40s and late 30s.”

Eytan Raz, a researcher at NYU’s Langone Medical Center. (NYU Langone)

As the number of younger stroke patients increases at US hospitals, it is beginning to have doctors worried.

“These are people among the least likely statistically to have a stroke,” J Mocco, a neurosurgeon at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, told The Post.

The new revelations come a month after researchers in Britain found that middle-aged people, and not just the elderly, have a dramatically higher risk of dying or developing serious illness from the coronavirus than do younger people.

The findings came in a comprehensive analysis of virus cases in mainland China.

The British researchers analyzed more than 3,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in mainland China as well as data from hundreds of passengers repatriated from the outbreak city of Wuhan, and discovered that age is a key determining factor in serious infections, with nearly one in five over-80s requiring hospitalization, compared to around one percent among people under 30.

The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found that 4% of infected people in their forties required hospitalization and double that number of people in their fifties. Taking into account estimates of the number of cases that may not have been clinically confirmed — that is, mild or asymptomatic infections — the data showed that the hospitalization rate of patients in their fifties was 8.2%.

While the majority of Israeli deaths during the current pandemic have been older people, there have been younger victims as well. Last week, a 29-year old woman, who was already terminally ill, died of the virus. She was the country’s youngest victim.

Nearly 40% of all deaths in Israel as a result of the pathogen have been residents of nursing homes.

There have been 15,398 cases and 199 deaths in Israel as of Sunday morning.

Israel has begun easing restrictions on public movement even as Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, director-general of the Health Ministry, has warned that the country could see a renewed coronavirus outbreak in the winter.

The government is currently set to weigh an Education Ministry proposal that would gradually reopen the education system and see thousands of preschoolers and elementary school children return to class in the coming weeks.

Most stores, hairdressers and beauty salons were allowed to resume operations from midnight Saturday, if hygiene regulations related to the virus are adhered to. In addition, restaurants and food shops are allowed to sell products for takeaway, not just home deliveries, if a physical barrier is placed between the cashier and the customers.

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