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COVID drove 43% spike in heart inflammation cases at US hospitals in 2020


In 2020, heart inflammation cases at U.S. hospitals rose 43 percent – with over 40 percent of cases occurring among COVID-19 patients – according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Patients admitted with Covid were 16 times more likely to experience heart inflammation than those admitted with other conditions.

Older men and teenage boys were the most likely to face the condition. 

Covid patients under age 16 had a 0.13 percent chance of experiencing heart inflammation, compared to a chance under 0.1 percent for adults ages 16 to 39.

The CDC’s data suggests that heart inflammation is much more common as a repercussion of Covid itself than as a side effect of the vaccine. 

Covid patients are more likely to experience heart inflammation than patients for other conditions - or recipients of Covid vaccines - according to new CDC data. Pictured: Medics transfer a patient outside Coral Gables Hospital, near Miami, Florida, in August 2021

Covid patients are more likely to experience heart inflammation than patients for other conditions – or recipients of Covid vaccines – according to new CDC data. Pictured: Medics transfer a patient outside Coral Gables Hospital, near Miami, Florida, in August 2021

Heart inflammation cases rose by 43 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the CDC

Heart inflammation cases rose by 43 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the CDC

Earlier this year, scientists identified a form of heart inflammation called myocarditis as a potential side effect of the COVID-19 vaccines.

A very small number of vaccinated patients – about 1,000 out of over 200 million – have experienced this condition after receiving their second shot of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Younger men have been more likely to experience this side effect, though it’s still very rare in this population – about 40 cases for every one million vaccinated among men aged 12 to 29.

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Scientists say that the benefits of vaccination against Covid outweigh the risks of rare side effects.

A severe case of Covid is actually more likely to lead to heart inflammation than a vaccine is, as a new CDC study demonstrates.

CDC researchers used a large database of over 36 million anonymous hospital patient records, encompassing over 900 hospitals in the U.S.

Within that database, the researchers identified about 5,000 patients who were diagnosed with heart inflammation between March 2020 and January 2021.

These heart inflammation cases rose by 43 percent from 2019 to 2020, the researchers found – from about 3,200 cases in 2019 to 4,600 in 2020.

The highest numbers of patients were diagnosed with this condition in spring 2020 and November 2020 to January 2021, aligning with major surges of the virus in the U.S.

During the study period, about 0.15 percent of all Covid patients admitted to hospitals experienced heart inflammation.

For the patients who didn’t have Covid, that number was just 0.009 percent. 

The risk of heart inflammation was 16 times higher for Covid patients than for those hospitalized with other conditions. 

Indeed, among the 5,000 patients with heart inflammation, over 40 percent had a history of Covid – either they were infected at the time they went to the hospital, or they had an infection prior to their hospital visit.

Among the Covid patients in the study, men, children under age 16, and seniors were more likely to experience heart inflammation, the CDC found

Among the Covid patients in the study, men, children under age 16, and seniors were more likely to experience heart inflammation, the CDC found

Among the Covid patients, men had a higher risk of heart inflammation, with 0.19 percent of men developed the condition compared to 0.11 percent of women.

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Seniors had a higher risk than middle-aged and younger adults. 

Adults over age 70 had the highest heart inflammation risk (0.24 percent of Covid patients), followed by those between ages 65 and 74 (0.19 percent).

Children under age 16 also had a notably high heart inflammation risk compared to other age groups – 0.13 percent. 

Young adults, ages 16 to 39, had under 0.1 percent risk.

The researchers noted, however, that younger adults are less likely to experience severe Covid compared to older adults, so this age group may not have been examined for heart inflammation symptoms in the same way that seniors were.

Scientists are still working to understand exactly how Covid causes heart inflammation. Pictured: The cardiovascular recovery room at a hospital in Grants Pass, Oregon, August 2021

Scientists are still working to understand exactly how Covid causes heart inflammation. Pictured: The cardiovascular recovery room at a hospital in Grants Pass, Oregon, August 2021

Scientists still working to understand exactly how Covid causes heart inflammation, but it seems to be linked to overreaction of the immune system – a common occurrence in severe viral infections.

The CDC study is limited in that researchers were looking back at past hospital records, rather than actively examining patient symptoms.

However, it aligns with findings from past studies on heart inflammation that show Covid patients are at a higher risk compared to other, non-Covid patients – and compared to those who receive the vaccines.

One Israeli study cited by the CDC researchers found that Covid patients had an 18 times higher chance of experiencing heart inflammation. 

Covid vaccine recipients had only a three times higher chance of the condition.

‘These findings underscore the importance of implementing evidence-based COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination, to reduce the public health impact of COVID-19 and its associated complications,’ the researchers wrote. 

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