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Is COVID-19 to blame for the increase of cardiac arrest deaths in Maryland?

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Posted at 11:04 PM, Jan 08, 2021

BALTIMORE — Researchers in Maryland are exploring the connection between COVID-19 and cardiac arrest after an increasing number of people tested positive for COVID-19.

“It’s difficult to know whether people are having out-of-hospital cardiac arrest because they have underlying heart disease and are not seeking care or because they have underlying heart disease and COVID-19 precipitates part of their heart difficulties or rather COVID-19 is a large contributing factor," said Dr. Ted Delbridge, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Service Systems (MIEMSS), which is a state agency that tracks the number of cardiac arrests in Maryland.

According to Dr. Delbridge, more Marylanders died from cardiac arrest in 2020 than they did in 2019. He said a rising number of them aren't even making it to the hospital.

“The reason we’re experiencing more out of hospital cardiac arrests is that people are ignoring important symptoms," he said. "They're waiting too long."

He said MIEMSS began collecting nasal samples from cardiac arrest patients last July and found about 20 percent of them tested positive for the virus over the past two months.

Dr. Delbridge said it was typically around four to six percent in the summer.

He said they won't know the connection between COVID-19 and cardiac arrest any time soon, which is why he is urging people to stay vigilant.

Dr. Delbridge said for those who experience symptoms that include shortness of breath and chest pain should see a doctor.

“When they have those things, they need to see care quickly, promptly [and] not defer care,” he said. “It’s causing them to have a problem that can’t be corrected.”