Neurologic problems are common in patients with COVID-19, and in some cases are the first symptoms seen, according to a new analysis of patient data. 

Among 214 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in early 2020, 34% had neurologic issues, investigators found. In addition, patients with the most severe illness had significantly more of these problems, including acute cerebrovascular events, impaired consciousness, and muscle injury, reported Bo Hu, M.D., Ph.D., from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China. 

Most neurologic symptoms came early in the illnesses’ course. Symptom categories included:

  • Central nervous system: dizziness, headache, impaired consciousness, acute cerebrovascular disease, ataxia, and seizure
  • Peripheral nervous system: taste impairment, smell impairment, vision impairment, and nerve pain, and 
  • Skeletal muscular injury

Impaired consciousness included change of consciousness level (somnolence, stupor, and coma) and consciousness content (confusion and delirium). 

Notably, some patients with fever and headache were admitted to the neurology ward after COVID-19 was ruled out. Days later, they developed established COVID-19 symptoms (cough, throat pain, lower lymphocyte count and lung scan signs) and were transferred back to the isolation ward.

Full findings were published Friday in JAMA Neurology.

In other coronavirus news:

Pharmacists permitted to order and administer COVID-19 tests: Licensed pharmacists may now order and administer COVID-19 tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services announced last week. The directive aims to improve testing access.

CDC confirms: Elders and males account for more coronavirus hospitalizations: The COVID-19 hospitalization rate for people 65 and older was 13.8 per 100,000, compared to a rate of 4.6 per 100,000 overall, preliminary data from March shows. Males may be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 compared with females, and black populations might be disproportionately affected as well, the agency reported. 

Face masks offer slight protection from flu-like illness: Surgical-grade face masks provide “modest protection” against flu-like illness, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of East Anglia say there is enough evidence to support their use by vulnerable people, including patients and care providers in high-risk situations such as healthcare settings.