One of COVID-19's many devastating impacts is how it affects the brain and other neurological pathways. While researchers have noted symptoms such as hallucinations and delirium among adults suffering from the disease, pediatric specialists are finding that children are similarly affected.
Yael Hacochen, M.D., of University College London, reported that that neurological symptoms were observed in 4 of 27 previously healthy children who developed COVID-19. This mirrors U.S. findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed neurological involvement in children who developed MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, according to Medpage Today.
While doctors say it's rare that children, in general, are severely affected by the disease, those who develop complications may suffer longer-term effects, including brain damage.
Dr. Omar Abdel-Manna, a pediatric neurology specialist from the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, told NBC News that he's concerned about the new-onset neurological symptoms in children with COVID-19.
"The virus has surprised us in so many, many ways," he said. "It does need really good quality longitudinal assessments and studies that will be looking at the cognition of these children, looking at their long-term psychological and psychiatric health."
According to ABC News, doctors are confused about how the virus attacks the brain. Some think that it directly damages brain tissues or blood vessels. Others believe the mental agitation is caused by an aggressive inflammatory response, as in MIS-C.
Dr. Lorenzo Norris, the associate dean at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, offers another theory. He believes that the cause is a severe overreaction of the immune system, called a "cytokine storm," that causes blood clots to form in the brain.
"We're learning something new about this virus every day, but there are concerns from folks on the front line for what will become of patients with altered mental status and COVID-19," he told ABC News.
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