THURSDAY, Nov. 17, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The incidence of new seizures or epilepsy is increased in patients in the six months following COVID-19 compared with matched patients with influenza, according to a study published online Nov. 16 in Neurology.

Maxime Taquet, M.D., from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues examined the potential association between COVID-19 and seizures or epilepsy in the six months after infection using data from an electronic health record network of 81 million people. Individuals with COVID-19 were closely matched to those with influenza. The incidence and hazard ratios of seizures and epilepsy were measured in each cohort.

A total of 860,934 electronic health records were analyzed, yielding two cohorts, each with 152,754 patients after matching. The researchers found that compared with influenza, the risk for seizures and epilepsy was increased in association with COVID-19. The incidence rates of seizures and epilepsy within six months of COVID-19 were 0.81 and 0.30 percent, respectively (corresponding hazard ratios compared with influenza, 1.55 and 1.87). People who had not been hospitalized and those aged younger than 16 years had a greater hazard ratio of epilepsy after COVID-19 compared with influenza. The time of peak hazard ratio after infection varied with age and hospitalization status.

“While the overall risk of developing seizures or epilepsy was low — less than 1 percent of all people with COVID-19, given the large number of people who have been infected with COVID-19, this could result in increases in the number of people with seizures and epilepsy,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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