The Delta COVID-19 variant could be putting young, healthy people at greater risk of fatal heart complications, according to the director of Australia’s leading cardiac research centre.
While earlier strains of the virus were most deadly among the elderly, Professor Jason Kovacic, from Sydney’s Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, said there was evidence to suggest Delta was different.
He said the variant, which was first identified in India and is now the subject of outbreaks in NSW, Queensland and Victoria, appeared to cause more serious infections and complications in younger people.
“The data is still emerging on exactly how common the cardiac side effects are with this strain,” he said.
“However anecdotally we’re certainly seeing a few more cases of cardiac complications in younger people from Delta.”
Supplied: Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
Professor Kovacic said one of Delta’s side effects could include inflammation of the heart, known as myocarditis.
In severe cases, myocarditis can weaken the heart, and lead to heart failure, abnormal heartbeat or sudden death.
It can also lead to blood clots, which commonly start in the legs and then move up to the heart or lungs.
People don’t need to be critically ill, or have underlying heart conditions, to be affected and Professor Kovacic said he had seen several COVID-19 patients die this way.
“These complications involving the heart are a very significant problem, but thankfully, it’s still the minority of people with that experience,” he said.
“It may be inevitable that more young people die as this outbreak is set to get worse, but hopefully it’s a very, very, very low number.”
Chief health officer Kerry Chant has described the Delta variant as a “wake up call” for young people that “dispelled the myth” that only elderly people end up in hospital if infected.
Most new COVID-19 infections in NSW are now among people aged 20-39.
A teenager, three people in their 20s, and four people in their 30s are among the Delta patients in NSW’s intensive care units.