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Myocarditis: All you need to know about disease linked to Covid-19

Israel on Tuesday reported a small number of heart inflammation cases, known as myocarditis, mostly in young men who were given shots of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. The country’s health ministry said 275 such cases were reported out of 5 million people who were vaccinated from December 2020 to May 2021.

A study commissioned by the Israeli health ministry said “there is a probable link between receiving the second dose (of Pfizer) vaccine and the appearance of myocarditis among men aged 16 to 30”.

The health ministry said 95% of the cases were mild and most patients spent no more than four days in the hospital. Israel has not put a pause on its vaccine roll-out; in fact, the Pfizer vaccine has been greenlighted for inoculating 12-15 year olds.

Here’s all you need to know about the disease afflicting a minor population of young vaccine recipients:

Myocarditis leads to an inflammation of the heart muscle. The inflammation weakens and enlarges the heart by creating scar tissue and forcing it to pump harder to circulate blood and oxygen throughout the body. Cardiovascular diseases are usually geriatric (related to old people) but myocarditis abide by no such age restrictions.

According to Myocarditis Foundation, a body of physicians and researchers, the disease can affect anyone from young adults to kids and even infants. The high-risk population includes those who have reached puberty through their early 30’s. It affects males twice as often as females. It is also the third leading cause of sudden death in children and young adults.

Viral infections can cause myocarditis and it starts with the invasion of the human body by a pathogen which replicates within and around myocardium causing myonecrosis. Myocarditis can also be triggered by natural toxins like snake venom.

Patients with myocarditis experience symptoms of fatigue, chest pain, lightheadedness, swelling of feet and ankle, arrhythmia, and cardiac arrest. Many others likely have mild symptoms and are never diagnosed, according to researchers. However, a majority of patients exhibit no visible symptoms and hence this disease goes undiagnosed in large stretches of the population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US too started to look into reports of Pfizer vaccine linked myocarditis in young recipients on May 22. The CDC said this condition was more prevalent among young males who had gotten their second dose. “Most cases appear to be mild, and follow-up of cases is ongoing,” the CDC told reporters.

Researchers have cautioned against pausing vaccination since Covid-19 itself can cause myocarditis and a plethora of other issues, adding that the benefits of vaccinating far outweighs the risk. A fact that Israel’s pandemic-response coordinator Nachman Ash reiterated to Reuters.

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