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Coronavirus

New, serious complication of COVID-19 reported

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2013, file photo, a CT scan technician prepares for a patient at the Silver Cross Emergency Care Center in Homer Glen, Ill. A team of doctors at the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan used back-to-back CT scans and MRIs to make the diagnosis of acute necrotizing encephalitis (ANE) in a 58-year-old female patient who tested positive for coronavirus. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2013, file photo, a CT scan technician prepares for a patient at the Silver Cross Emergency Care Center in Homer Glen, Ill. A team of doctors at the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan used back-to-back CT scans and MRIs to make the diagnosis of acute necrotizing encephalitis (ANE) in a 58-year-old female patient who tested positive for coronavirus. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

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An association between COVID-19 and a rare complication of viral infections was recently reported.

Last week, a team of doctors at the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan reported acute necrotizing encephalitis, a central nervous infection, in a 58-year-old female patient, according to a statement on the Henry Ford Health System website.

The patient had gone to the emergency room by ambulance after three days of fever, cough and muscle aches and showed signs of confusion, disorientation and lethargy, said Henry Ford neurologist Dr. Elissa Fory, a member of the medical team that helped make the diagnosis.

A flu test was negative; a rapid COVID-19 test, which the Henry Ford’s clinical microbiology lab developed in-house, was positive.

“The team had suspected encephalitis at the outset, but then back-to-back CT and MRI scans made the diagnosis,” Fory said in the statement.

ANE, which is rare in adults, can occur with viral infections, such as influenza and chicken pox.The risk for neurological complications and death when a patient has ANE is high.

The team at the Henry Ford Health System published its case report online last Tuesday in the journal Radiology.

In the statement, neuroradiologist Dr. Brent Griffith, senior author of the published case report, said the paper shows “the important role that imaging can play in COVID-19 cases.”

The report suggested a relationship between ANE and intracranial cytokine storms.

A cytokine storm may occur when the body is fighting an infection. Cytokines are part of the immune system.

But cytokines can harm a person when the body suddenly releases a large amount, the National Cancer Institute website said.

Mounting evidence suggests “a subgroup of patients with severe COVID-19 might have a cytokine storm syndrome," The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, reported on March 16.

"This complication is as devastating as severe lung disease," Fory said in the statement.

To read the full statement, visit bit.ly/39Kqrld.

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