Study finds people with dementia twice as likely to get COVID-19

A new study shows that people with dementia are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

The study, led by researchers at Case Western Reserve University, also pointed out that people with dementia had a greater chance of being hospitalized or dying from the virus.

Researchers said people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease have a damaged barrier between the blood and the brain, making them more susceptible to bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Researchers also said the diseases impair memory, making it difficult for sick patients to remember or comprehend COVID-19 safety protocols such as social distancing, mask-wearing and handwashing. 

Also, the report revealed Black people with dementia are three times more at risk of catching the virus than White people with dementia. 

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However, the study said that it’s not known how dementia or socioeconomic factors can alone directly increase people's chances of contracting the virus.

Researchers gathered health electronic data from 360 hospitals and 317,000 health providers from all 50 states, representing 20% of the U.S. population. The study began in August 2020, examining nearly 62 million people. Nearly 1.1 million people had dementia and more than 15,000 people had COVID‐19. More than 800 people had both dementia and COVID‐19.

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The study’s authors said more research is needed and the data needs to be replicated to further understand the relationship between dementia and COVID-19. However, researchers urge the medical community to do more to protect people who have dementia during the pandemic.

The Alzheimer’s Association said an estimated 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older and 50 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

According to Johns Hopkins, nearly 30 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began nearly a year ago. Nearly 525,000 Americans have died.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.