LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The novel coronavirus is now being linked to blood clots and strokes in otherwise healthy young adults, according to doctors with the University of Louisville. 

"We have patients who have had COVID-19 and strokes," said Dr. Kerri Remmel, director of U of L's Stroke Center.

Doctors are looking into the links between the respiratory illness and blood clots, which Remmel said have caused young adults without preexisting conditions to suffer strokes. 

"Young people who have no risk factors for stroke," she added. "They don’t smoke; they don’t have atherosclerosis; they don’t have high blood pressure; they don’t have diabetes; (they) don’t have high cholesterol, yet they might be having a stroke." 

During a virtual town hall meeting Saturday morning, Dr. Jon Klein of U of L's School of Medicine told Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer that blood clots, often found in the veins, are showing up in arteries around COVID-19 patients' hearts and brains and can cause the strokes to occur. 

The strokes are common enough, Klein said, that he thinks "everyone needs to be aware."

"What we're seeing is people who have a very active case of COVID-19 develop a clotting abnormality, which means they begin to produce blood clots in a very aggressive way," he added.

What's puzzling, Klein said, is that a stroke can sometimes be the first symptom of the novel coronavirus — not a breathing problem like one might expect.

"This is one of those canaries in the coalmine that people began to notice in late February, early March," Klein said. "Now we understand that it's due to clotting problems, and I think people are being a little more aggressive about treating it."

More patients may now be prescribed blood thinners as information on the virus and its warning signs continue to evolve.

"We investigate it thoroughly so we can do what it takes to get (a patient) better from this stroke," Remmel said, "but also learn how to prevent another stroke."

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