Warning: Covid-19 Can Damage Your Brain
The more people know about coronavirus and Covid-19, the more concerns grow about the long-term effects on the body. One of them—and a big one, unfortunately—is the brain.
Recent studies reveal that Covid-19 is not only a respiratory disease, it can also affect lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, and almost every organ system in the body, including the nervous system.
The BBC reported in an article that more than 300 studies from around the world have found a prevalence of neurological abnormalities in Covid patients. On average, 50% of patients diagnosed with Covid-19 have experienced neurological problems, such as headaches, dizziness, loss of smell (anosmia), tingling sensations (arcoparasthesia), inability to speak (aphasia), strokes, and seizures.
There is also an unknown amount of people that might be suffering from the effects of the disease, including neurological symptoms, but never get tested for the virus because they do not have a fever or a cough. Thus, they will never know if those symptoms are related to Covid-19.
Scientists published in the journal Brain details of more than 40 UK mildly affected or recovered Covid-19 patients with serious or potentially fatal brain conditions. The cases showed a surge in acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem), a life-threatening condition. There were patients with inflammation of the central nervous system, brain diseases with delirium or psychosis, strokes, and peripheral nerve problems, mostly diagnosed as Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is fatal in 5% of cases.
Researchers believe that neurological effects related to Coronavirus are an indirect result of low levels of oxygen saturation or the byproduct of the body’s inflammatory response. However, there is evidence that suggests the virus can invade the brain itself.
This has led some scientists to suspect that the virus causes respiratory failure and death not through damage to the lungs but to the brainstem, the command center that ensures we keep breathing even when unconscious, as BBC reported.
Sherry Chou, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh who is also coordinating scientists from 17 countries to collectively monitor the neurological symptoms of the pandemic, considers that the lasting impact on the nervous system can be far more devastating.
“Even though neurological symptoms are less common in Covid-19 than lung problems, recovery from neurological injuries is often incomplete and can take much longer compared to other organ systems (for example, lung), and therefore result in much greater overall disability, and possibly more death,” said Chou to BBC.
This scenario poses a challenge for insurance companies, medical treatment, and the Workers’ Compensation system because in California there is not any kind of presumption for the long-term impact of Covid-19.
Governor Newsom’s Executive Order issued on May 6, 2020, created a time-limited rebuttable presumption for facilitating access to Workers’ Compensation benefits to Californians who must work outside during the stay-at-home order. Eligible workers would have the presumption if they tested positive or diagnosed with Covid-19 by a positive test within 14 days of performing labor or service at the address of the employer.
Also, the order reduced the investigative period from 90 to 30 days after an injury is reported and a claim form provided, which forced insurance companies to decide faster about the claim’s liability.
However, the presumption stayed in place for 60 days, or July 5, which means that only people who worked up until that day could still be eligible if they become sick and get a positive Covid-19 test within the next 14 days after the deadline.
With this presumption, workers did not have to prove that they contracted the virus at work, they only needed to meet the requirements of the Governor’s order. The burden then shifted to the insurance company to accept or deny the claim within 30 days. But now that the order is over, Covid-19 claims will return to be like any other Workers’ Comp claim: insurance companies will have 90 days to deny or accept a claim—so, people might see delays in getting benefits—and the burden to show causation will be on the employee’s side.
According to Viviana Santiago, an Associate Attorney at Pacific Workers’, Covid-19 has been a hot topic between doctors and lawyers because nothing is for sure. For example, what permanent disability can arise from Covid-19 beyond respiratory damage?
The challenge will be to prove at what point those long-term effects manifest and how they tie to Coronavirus. Maybe for some of these cases, the argument would center around the latency period—the interval between exposure and the development of a consequent disease—, like asbestos and cancer cases.
“Covid is going to require some new long-term presumptions for at least a subset of workers, like health care workers and others,” she said.
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