Coronavirus A nightmare side effect
Many severely ill patients have developed a terrifying condition that causes nightmarish visions and can have long-lasting consequences. Known as hospital delirium, the phenomenon, which was observed mostly in older people before the pandemic, has struck Covid-19 patients of all ages.
Reports suggest that about two-thirds to three-quarters of virus patients who end up in intensive-care units, even for relatively short stays, have experienced the condition. Their hospitalization often provides the perfect combination of elements: long stints on ventilators, heavy sedatives, poor sleep, minimal social interaction.
Delirium takes two forms — hyperactive, which leads to paranoid hallucinations and agitation, and hypoactive, which causes internalized visions and confusion. Some people experience both.
Recovered virus patients have described thinking they were being abducted or burned alive. Even after their visions go away, the condition can slow the healing process and increase the risk of depression or post-traumatic stress. Older patients can also develop dementia sooner than they otherwise would have, and even die earlier.
Another troubling development: Immunologists believe the coronavirus may be responsible for depleting disease-fighting T cells, similar to how H.I.V. operates. If that’s the case, protection against the virus could be fleeting, and a cocktail of antiviral drugs may be needed to control it.
The New York Times