The cognitive issues that can indicate coronavirus – not one of the three ‘main’ symptoms

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Coronavirus continues to terrorise the world over, with many countries in the throes of a second wave. The viral disease has exposed many deficiencies, from creaking economic structures to the dissemination of public health knowledge. In relation to the latter, emerging evidence suggests many public health bodies are not communicating the extent to which COVID-19 – the viral disease – can impact the body.

The NHS website states there are three main symptoms of coronavirus to be on the lookout for.

According to the health body, a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste are the main indicators.

“Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms,” explains the health body.

However, research elsewhere suggests the effects are far more extensive than these three symptoms and underreported symptoms are experienced by significant numbers of people.

This is evidenced by what many experts are unofficially calling “long covid” symptoms – those symptoms that do not let up for months are the virus has been fought off.

Some of the most stubborn symptoms are neurological issues and a report conducted by Northwestern revealed that nearly 82 percent of coronavirus patients experience some type of neurological symptom at some point during their illness.

The study involved 509 patients whose coronavirus symptoms were so severe as to require hospitalisation.

Many of the cited symptoms may be familiar, such as loss of taste and smell, but one that deserves more mainstream attention is encephalopathy.

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According to the research, this neurological symptom accounted for 31 percent of reported cases.

What is encephalopathy?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), encephalopathy is a term for any diffuse disease of the brain that alters brain function or structure.

“The hallmark of encephalopathy is an altered mental state,” explains NINDS.

It adds: “Depending on the type and severity of encephalopathy, common neurological symptoms are progressive loss of memory and cognitive ability, subtle personality changes, inability to concentrate, lethargy, and progressive loss of consciousness.”

This may help to explain the commonly reported “brain fog” symptom that has cropped up in reports over the course of the pandemic.

One patient revealed the impact this vague symptom was having on them seven months after first encountering coronavirus.

Speaking to the Guardian, 36-year-old Mirabai Nicholson-McKellar of Byron Bay said: “Brain fog seems like such an inferior description of what is actually going on. It’s completely crippling. I am unable to think clearly enough to [do] anything.”

She added: “It often prevents me from being able to have a coherent conversation or write a text message or email.”

What should I do if I experience coronavirus symptoms?

According to UK health advice, if you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), get a test as soon as possible.

Stay at home and do not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.

Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, must also stay at home until you get your result.

A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.

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