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Worrying Connections Between COVID-19 and Damage to the Nervous System

Written By: Shreya Mahesh

COVID-19 has swept across the globe and is often associated with flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. However, new studies have arisen with potential evidence that the coronavirus affects the brain and nervous system as well. Some symptoms that have been found in patients include stroke, loss of taste and smell, dizziness, and confusion.

A study conducted in Wuhan, China, observed the neurological manifestations of patients who were hospitalised with COVID-19. While observing 214 patients, the study found that 36.4% of the patients experienced neurologic symptoms. A link was established between patients experiencing neurological symptoms and severe infection, as depicted by their respiratory health (Mao et al., 2020).

It is currently unknown as to whether the virus first handedly targets the nervous system or if the damage done to the brain is simply an effect of the body’s response to the viral infection.

There is a theory currently being studied stating that the virus enters the nervous system through the nose. It utilizes the olfactory bulb which is responsible for relaying information from the nose to the brain. As the virus enters the nose, damage may be done to the olfactory bulb, causing issues with smell and taste (Nania, 2020). The virus can cause further damage once it reaches nerve cells in the cerebrospinal fluid. It can lead to cognitive problems and seizures in COVID-19 patients (Moyer, 2020). However, the theory is lacking proof and evidence.

Another approach is that the cause of damages to the nervous system is caused by the body’s response to the infection. This approach is common to other viruses, including the flu (Nania, 2020). The body’s reaction to the virus results in inflammation and swelling of the brain, which is referred to as encephalitis, along with headaches and dizziness (University of Liverpool, 2020). This is also the primary approach to Alzheimer’s disease and COVID-19 may be another virus to add to the list (Moyer, 2020).

Brain inflammation can cause the formation of blood clots. A study regarding thrombotic complications in COVID-19 patients who are critically ill was conducted. Results showed that 30% of the patients experienced blood clots which can block important passageway in neural networks in the brain, decreasing its function (Klok et al., 2020). These blood clots can lead to the increased risk of stroke (Nania, 2020).

Information regarding the short-term effects of COVID-19 on the nervous system is greater than that of the long-term effects. It is also unclear as to whether the effects the virus has are permanent. More studies are being conducted regarding the neurological effects of COVID-19.

Works Cited

Klok, F. A., Kruip, M., van der Meer, N., Arbous, M. S., Gommers, D., Kant, K. M., Kaptein, F., van Paassen, J., Stals, M., Huisman, M. V., & Endeman, H. (2020). Incidence of thrombotic complications in critically ill ICU patients with COVID-19. Thrombosis research, 191, 145–147.

Mao L, Jin H, Wang M, et al. Neurologic Manifestations of Hospitalized Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Wuhan, China. JAMA Neurol. 2020;77(6):683–690. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.1127

Moyer, M.W. (2020, June 26). Opinion: Can Covid Damage the Brain?. New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2020 from

Nania, R. (2020, May 07). COVID-19’s Effect on the Nervous System. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from

University of Liverpool. (2020, July 8). COVID-19 brain complications found across the globe. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 14, 2020 from

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