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New stroke campaign amid possible Covid-19 risk

The potential for rolling out a new TV advert for stroke symptom awareness has been raised at a subgroup of the national public health emergency team (NPHET), with Covid-19 being possibly linked to an increased stroke risk.

The HSE has confirmed it is working on developing a new campaign with the Irish Heart Foundation.

A meeting of the acute hospital preparedness subgroup in early June heard that a new FAST campaign for stroke patients was being developed in the UK with “potential for roll-out in Ireland as well once complete”.

According to minutes, “It was noted that Covid-19 appears to have increased the risk of stroke, particularly in young people, and the risk of stroke is also increased in winter.”

A spokesperson for the HSE told the Medical Independent there had been reports of greater incidences of stroke with Covid-19 infection and strokes in younger age groups with the virus.

While watching “with due vigilance, it is too early to draw conclusions that there is causative association”, they added.

However, the spokesperson said it should be noted that while the incidence of stroke also rises with other outbreaks such as seasonal influenza, it “does appear from early reports that Covid-19 may be associated with a greater risk”.

In the early stages of the outbreak, there were delayed presentations to hospital with stroke and other illnesses, said the spokesperson.

Anecdotally, the ‘fear of acquiring Covid-19 in hospital’ has been given as the reason for that delay in attendance in some instances.

The time from symptom onset to attendance at hospital had been growing in Ireland and the UK even before the coronavirus outbreak, however, and is “a matter of concern when outcomes from treatment in acute stroke are so time dependent”.

“Only half of our stroke population attend within three hours of symptom onset and public awareness of stroke , its symptoms and what to do is a major factor in this – we [the national stroke programme] are actively planning a new awareness campaign with the HSE and Irish Heart Foundation.”

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