Lesson Learned (April 22)


Lesson learned from an April 2021 reputable medical journal article confirms what I have observed among friends and neighbors who suffered COVID-19 in the past year. One-third of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 continue suffering from a psychiatric or neurological problem within six months of their diagnosis, according to a study published Tuesday in The Lancet Psychiatry. The prevalence of a post-COVID neurological or psychiatric diagnosis was even greater among individuals with severe illness who required hospitalization.

“Given the size of the pandemic and the chronicity of many of the diagnoses and their consequences (for example, dementia, stroke, and intracranial hemorrhage), substantial effects on health and social care systems are likely to occur,” wrote Maxime Taque, Ph.D., of the University of Oxford, and colleagues. “Our data provide important evidence indicating the scale and nature of services that might be required.”

This study used data from a multinational electronic health record (EHR) database to identify 236,379 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 on or after January 20, 2020, and who were still alive on December 13, 2020. Included were 190,077 patients who did not require hospitalization and 46,302 who did (including 8,945 patients who required intensive care). For control groups, they also examined the EHR records of patients diagnosed with influenza and patients diagnosed with any respiratory tract infection during the same period.

Doctors call such findings “morbidity.” My 50-plus years studying and practicing medicine has involved more and more suffering from chronic illness—those ailments that last more than six months. My observation is that we are less healthy here in Upshur County year in and year out. Back in the 1970s, West Virginians gained excess weight. We became morbidly obese. Then we topped disability charts due to accidents and trauma related to the dangers of extraction work in oil, gas, forestry, and, of course, coal mining. In more recent decades, our perfect storm has been the opioid epidemic. Our death rate has consistently been the worst in the USA.

Now I see that the Coronavirus Pandemic impairs one in three with neuropsychiatric maladies that I treat as a physician, including intracranial hemorrhage; ischemic stroke; Parkinson’s disease; Guillain-Barré syndrome; nerve, nerve root, and plexus disorders; neuromuscular disorders; encephalitis; dementia; psychotic disorders; mood disorders; anxiety disorders; substance use disorder; and insomnia.

Overall, 33.62% of COVID-19 patients received one of the above diagnoses within 180 days; this rate increased to 38.73% among patients who were hospitalized and 46.42% among patients admitted to intensive care. The rates of almost all these outcomes were higher in patients in the COVID-19 group versus those in the influenza or respiratory tract infection groups. The exceptions were Parkinson’s disease and Guillain-Barré syndrome, which were similar in COVID-19 and influenza patients.

Anxiety disorders were the most common neuropsychiatric diagnoses among all patients, occurring in 17.39% of COVID-19 patients; then mood disorders in 13.66% of COVID-19 patients, and substance use disorder at 6.58% of COVID-19 patients. Psychotic disorders were diagnosed in 1.40% of COVID-19 patients.

What horrible news!

Lesson learned comes back to practicing an ounce of prevention—social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and now receiving one of the highly effective vaccines.

As a member of the Upshur County Schools Board of Education, I am greatly saddened by what leads the news, the fact that children are also severely impacted but fortunately at much lower rates.

According to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, many children who developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) from coronavirus infection actually never showed classic COVID-19 symptoms at the time of infection.

Again, the lesson learned by our Upshur County Schools BOE is that we have served our community well by uniting our efforts with our Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department as well as our West Virginia State Department of Education.

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