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Gainesville cardiologists discuss COVID-19 effects on the heart

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Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 10:06 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Two experts, one in adult cardiology and the other in the pediatric side of the field, discuss the effects of COVID-19 on the heart as February is National Heart Month.

Dr. Charles Klodell is the Chief of Thoracic and cardiovascular Surgery at North Florida Regional Medical Center. He says that heart conditions can cause severe symptoms when one contracts COVID.

“Certainly COVID has been very very significant with people with preexisting cardiovascular disease. As most folks are already aware, its hypertension, diabetes and preexisting cardiovascular are the biggest risk factors for COVID causing a bad outcome,” said Dr. Klodell.

While the disease has impacted those with underlying conditions, he also says that during the Delta variant surge, healthy young adults were also being hospitalized with severe COVID.

“People mistakingly think that it’s only the previously sick or COPD patients or something like that that get so sick that they require ECMO after COVID, but in fact there are many young healthy people particularly during the Delta strain who came and required prolonged ECMO support in order to survive their illness,” said Dr. Klodell.

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ECMO stands for Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation, the machine pumps and infuses oxygen into the blood outside of the body giving the lungs and heart a chance to heal from the virus. The need for this machine and other severe heart conditions such as myocarditis are believed to be more prevalent in patients who are unvaccinated.

Dr. Jennifer Co-Vu is a Pediatric Cardiologist at UF Health Shands. She says it has been proven that myocarditis occurs most commonly by contracting COVID, not getting vaccinated.

“The vaccine causing COVID myocarditis is extremely rare, it’s way more often that kids get myocarditis from COVID itself, from the virus itself. It’s quoted around 40%, the vaccine myocarditis is like one in 10,000 to 20,000,” said Dr. Co-Vu.

Aside from myocarditis, Dr. Co-Vu says one of the worries with children catching COVID is a secondary syndrome that might develop after getting sick.

“The difference in children is that they can get a syndrome called MISC, or multi system inflammatory syndrome, in children two-to four weeks later. So, that is what is unique in COVID, in the COVID manifestation in children,” said Dr. Co-Vu.

Symptoms of that syndrome include heart complications and enlarging of coronary arteries. UF Health Shands officials are waiting to see the outcomes of children begin hospitalized with this syndrome in the coming weeks as the highly contagious Omicron surge has peaked.

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