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Homehealth and scienceCovid could trigger a spike in dementia cases, say Alzheimer's experts

Covid could trigger a spike in dementia cases, say Alzheimer’s experts

  • The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic could cause a significant rise in the number of dementia patients in the long term, said the Alzheimer's Disease International.
  • Some research has shown that Covid infections can increase a person's likelihood of developing dementia and cause dementia symptoms to show up earlier, the group said.
  • The group's Medical and Scientific Advisory Panel, made up of global experts on dementia, has set up a working group to study the link between Covid and dementia.

People wearing masks wait to cross a road in the Shibuya district on Feb. 2, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images News | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — The world may not be prepared for an impending wave of dementia and the additional cases that Covid-19 could bring, according to a group representing over 100 Alzheimer's and dementia associations globally.

The Alzheimer's Disease International is urging the World Health Organization and governments around the world to "urgently fast track research on the potential impact of COVID-19 on increasing dementia rates."

It says the pandemic could cause a significant rise in the number of dementia patients in the long term, as some research has shown that Covid infections can increase a person's likelihood of developing dementia and cause dementia symptoms to show up earlier.

Dementia generally refers to a deterioration in the brain that impairs memory, thoughts, behavior and emotion. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and there is currently no cure for dementia.

In the short term, "dementia rates may drop temporarily as a result of the high number of deaths of people with dementia due to COVID-19, with between 25 to 45 percent of all COVID-19 deaths estimated to be of those with dementia," the London-based group said in a media release Wednesday.

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But over the longer term, the number of people with dementia "could rise significantly due to the neurological impact of COVID-19," it added.

Since the coronavirus first emerged in China in late 2019, more than 217 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported — and over 18 million were detected in the last 28 days, according to official data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.  

The actual number of Covid cases globally is likely higher than what has been reported. That's in part due to factors such as lack of testing to uncover infections and insufficient capacity to report cases.

Covid and dementia

More should be done to understand the link between Covid dementia, said the Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI).

"Many dementia experts around the globe are seriously concerned by the link between dementia and the neurological symptoms of COVID-19," said Paola Barbarino, chief executive of ADI.

The group's Medical and Scientific Advisory Panel, made up of global experts on dementia, has set up a working group to study that link and make recommendations on how to deal with the problem.   

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