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This is only one man's opinion but interesting...

Search Engines and The Meta Description Tag
By Jill Whalen

The keywords and phrases you use in your Meta description tag don't affect your page's ranking in the search engines (for the most part), but this tag can still come in handy in your overall SEO campaigns.

What Is the Meta Description Tag?

The Meta description tag is a snippet of HTML code that belongs inside the <Head> </Head> section of a Web page. It usually is placed after the Title tag and before the Meta keywords tag, although the order is not important.

The proper syntax for this html tag is:

<meta name="Description" content="Your descriptive sentence or
two goes here."> 

I used to believe that the purpose of the Meta description tag was twofold: to help the page rank highly for the words that were contained within it, as well as to provide a nice description in the search engine results pages (SERPs). However, today it appears that, similar to the Meta keywords tag, the information you place in this tag is *not* given any weïght in the ranking algorithms of Google, and only a tiny amount of weïght in Yahoo's.

In other words, whether you use your important keyword phrases in your Meta description tag or not, it won't affect the position of your page in the SERPs for the words that are important to you. In fact, you could easily leave it out altogether. But should you?

Well, if you're already happy with the "snippets" of text that the search engines post from your page in any given search query, then there's no reason to have a Meta description tag on your pages. However, it's important to note that the snippet the engines use will vary, depending on what the searcher typed into the engine.

Let's take a step back and look at what the search engines show in the SERPs. It can get a little bit confusing, but if you try out your own searches in the various engines, you'll have a better idea of what I'm talking about. The search engines are constantly changing this sort of thing, plus they all behave in slightly different ways, as you'll see in my examples.

At Google, if you search for a site by URL like this:, the snippet you see is the first instance of text on the page. Interestingly enough, on my home page, an image alt attribute tag is the first instance of words "on the page," and that's what shows up as part of my "snippet" for this particular search. (The image is a clickable image, so this jibes with my other theory of Google indexing the words in the alt attributes of clickable images. See this forum thread from Dec. 2003.

For this type of search, Yahoo displays the Meta description info. It's important to note that generally the only people searching using URLs are site owners trying to see if their pages are indexed. Therefore, you shouldn't worry too much about what you see under those circumstances.

So let's try something that a real person might search for when looking for what I have to offer -- how about "SEO copy"?

In Google, my Nitty-gritty handbook page shows up second in the results with the following snippet:

"techniques: Search engine optimization (SEO) consultants who need to edit the existing copy of their clients' sites as a matter of course. ..."

Not the best of snippets, to say the least.

In this case, I don't have the phrase "SEO copy" in my Meta description tag, nor is it anywhere on the page as a complete phrase. Because of this, Google has simply found instances where the word SEO and the word copy were near each other, and used the surrounding text as the snippet.

So, if I felt that "SEO copy" was a viable keyword phrase that people might be searching on, I may want to adjust my page accordingly so that the phrase appeared in my Meta description tag as well as somewhere in the body text. Again, this is not because it would help it to rank highly, but because I would receive a more suitable description that was more in tune with what the searcher was looking for. One can surmise that they might be more inclined to clïck on my listing in that case.

Let's look at Yahoo for the same phrase. They've ranked the page at #3, and used the following snippet:

"Learn SEO copywriting with Jill Whalen's special report -- The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines."

That's a good snippet! Well, guess what? That's my Meta description tag for that page. Even though the exact phrase wasn't in the tag, and neither was the word "copy," Yahoo still chose to display it for this search query. I'm guessing this is because that phrase is actually nowhere on the page, other than in the Title tag. So with Yahoo, having a decent Meta description tag was very worthwhile in this instance.

More Tests

I also recently discovered that when I tested a nonsense word in the Meta description tag of a page (with the word not appearing elsewhere on the page), Google did not find it. But when I added the word to the visible text copy on the page, Google would bring up the test page when the nonsense word was searched for. Not only that, but it displayed that part of the Meta description tag where the nonsense word appeared.

In Yahoo, my nonsense-word test page was found, even if the word appeared only in the Meta description tag and nowhere else on the page. Interestingly enough, however, Yahoo didn't display the part of the tag where the word was placed. They displayed only the beginning of the description, and cut it off after about 45 words. I purposely placed my nonsense word deep into my description tag to see if it would get picked up. In this case, the word appeared as the last of 138 words in the tag. I'll probably add even more words at some point to see if there's any cutoff point where Yahoo will stop indexing.

Other Engines

I also tested a few searches at Teoma and MSN. Each engine is slightly different in how they display the Meta description tag. Teoma seems to find the words in the tag, but doesn't necessarily display them. When I searched for a unique sampling of text from one of my tags, Teoma found the page, but chose to display the first sentence on the page instead. Not surprisingly, the current MSN search worked the same as Yahoo. However, MSN's search technology prevïew (which is the new engine they're working on) behaved similarly to Google on all tests regarding Meta descriptions.

My new recommendation for this tag is not to worry too much about it. If you have some great call-to-action statements utilizing your keyword phrases on your Web pages, they will probably show up in your snippets at the engines. But since it's easy enough to create a compelling sentence or 2 that incorporates your main keyword phrases, you might as well do this for your Meta descriptions.

Certainly, the more control you have over your listing in the SERPs, the more clickthroughs you should see. If your Meta description tags can help with that, then it's certainly worth the time to create compelling, keyword-rich ones.

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He is the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and a spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump who has a surprisingly long history of controversial comments and hate speech.Graham seems to harbor a special level of disdain for followers of Islam, which he characterizes as a ?wicked and evil religion? that encourages adherents to beat their wives and murder their disobedient children. In 2015, he recommended banning all Muslims from immigrating to America and suggested our government treat them like the Japanese and German during World War II. As rationale, he argued that Muslims have ?the potential to be radicalized? and participate in ?killing to honor their religion and Muhammed.?That?s the man running Samaritan?s Purse?s coronavirus hospital, so yes, Muslim New Yorkers are right to be skeptical.Graham?s hate speech is also often aimed at LGBTQ people. He has called same-sex marriages ?detestable? and has drummed up fear toward gays and lesbians?whom he believes should burn in hell?by claiming they want to ?drag an immoral agenda into our communities.? In an article that has mysteriously disappeared from the Decision Magazine website, Graham wrote that the architect of the LGBTQ rights movement was ?none other than Satan himself.? And when Vladimir Putin initiated a violent crackdown on LGBTQ rights in Russia, it sparked a wave of beatings, abduction, public humiliation and other forms of violence against sexual minorities there. Graham responded by praising Putin?s policy, lauding the authoritarian leader for ?[protecting] his nation?s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.?Given such history, it makes complete sense that Mount Sinai Hospital asked Samaritan?s Purse to ?sign a written pledge to treat all patients equally.?Some conservative Christians have dismissed this as harassment, claiming that a scenario in which evangelicals discriminated against gays and lesbians is ridiculous to imagine. But our fair city has a long memory. We remember all the gay men who fled communities across America where evangelicals pastors condemned them as ?abominations? and found safe harbor in New York. We remember that when masses of them contracted HIV/AIDS and filled our hospital beds, evangelical preachers on TV called it God?s judgment. We remember Jerry Falwell and the religious right lobbying against HIV research and relief in the '90s, leading to untold deaths.All this occurred in my lifetime, and I am only 37. So please pardon New Yorkers if they feel uneasy, given American evangelicals? often-unacknowledged track record coupled with Graham?s comments, and want to take some minor precautions to ensure all citizens are protected. Gay, lesbian, and transgender New Yorkers are right to be skeptical.Even some conservative Christians who?ve acknowledged the disturbing nature of Graham?s comments have attacked Samaritan?s Purse?s critics for intolerance. Anyone should be able to help anyone in this time, the argument goes. It?s wrong to prevent people from serving the sick. I totally agree; but Samaritan?s Purse does not. The organization is requiring that all personnel serving in its pop-up hospital be Christians who agree to Samaritan?s Purse?s 11-point ?Statement of Faith,? which includes the beliefs that non-Christians will burn in hell and that same-sex relationships are sinful.It?s unsurprising, if lamentable, that a Christian aid group would turn away a Buddhist doctor looking to help its efforts. But if a lung doctor shows up in Central Park with the knowledge and experience to save lives, she could be sent home if she happens to be a liberal Episcopalian who voted for Hillary Clinton and supports marriage equality.If it is wrong to quibble over who is fit to help save lives in the middle of a crisis, then we must admit that Samaritan?s Purse is no better than its critics.The group?s defenders are correct, however, that the organization has laudably worked to meet emergency needs in crisis regions since its founding. They have accomplished much good in places like Kosovo, Sudan, Somalia, and Darfur. But their record is not unblemished, and many in the humanitarian world have questioned the quality of some of Samaritan?s Purse?s work.After USAID gave Samaritan?s Purse a large grant to help victims of the earthquake in El Salvador, they were disturbed to learn that the Christian group ?blurred the lines between church and state? by using funds to evangelize victims instead of just help them. An official with Samaritan?s Purse dismissed the criticism by claiming, ?We are first a Christian organization and second an aid organization.?That wasn?t the first time such blurring occurred, however. During the first Gulf War, respected U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf publicly criticized the group for trying to coerce American troops serving in Saudi Arabia to covertly distribute Arab-language Bibles under the guise of humanitarian work. And Samaritan?s Purse?s popular ?Operation Christmas Child? has recently been drawn fire when people learned that the holiday shoeboxes given to poor children in non-Christian families around the world were stuffed with Christian evangelism materials.The vast majority of New Yorkers are not Christian, and if they find themselves wheezing for air due to COVID-19, they don?t want to be proselytized while receiving treatment. They too have reason to be skeptical of the organization?s makeshift hospital.?This is what Samaritan?s Purse does?we respond in the middle of crises to help people in Jesus? Name. Please pray for our teams and for everyone around the world affected by the virus,? Graham declared in a press release announcing the ward.None of Samaritan?s Purse?s detractors have argued that the Central Park ward should be shuttered or that the organization be barred from offering care. And no one is casting aspersions on the many courageous health-care professionals who will put their lives at risk when this hospital opens. Most agree with the letter from Mount Sinai staff and doctors?at least one of whom is LGBTQ?that concerns about Samaritan?s Purse, while valid, must be set aside at the moment because ?the higher mission at present is to preserve human life.?To this, I say ?yes and.? New Yorkers can admit that Samaritan?s Purse should have a role to play in this vital work, and they can also acknowledge the many valid reasons that might make vulnerable and marginalized residents a little more than nervous.?Jonathan Merritt is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and author of Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words are Vanishing?And How We Can Revive Them.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

  • The family of a 34-year-old father in a 2-week coma with COVID-19 says a 'bureaucratic glitch' has kept him from accessing potentially life-saving treatment -

    The family of a 34-year-old father in a 2-week coma with COVID-19 says a 'bureaucratic glitch' has kept him from accessing potentially life-saving treatmentMichael Goldsmith is unconscious as his family fights for access to a drug, remdesivir, that he's been promised ? twice.

  • U.S. sounds alarm on coronavirus in Japan, Tokyo pushes for state of emergency -

    U.S. sounds alarm on coronavirus in Japan, Tokyo pushes for state of emergencyThe U.S. government on Friday sounded alarm about the surge in coronavirus cases in Japan, adding to a chorus of prominent domestic voices - including the governor of Tokyo - who have called for decisive action to avoid an explosive outbreak. Amid growing clamour for tighter curbs on people's movements to stem a rising tide of infections, the government has so far been reluctant to pull the trigger, warning of the heavy damage that could ensue in the world's third-biggest economy, already close to recession. Instead, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged school closures and called on citizens to avoid unnecessary and non-urgent gatherings and outings while preparing to roll out an economic stimulus plan next week - even as he acknowledged the country was barely avoiding a major jump in infections.

  • Attempts for Middle East ceasefires amid the coronavirus crisis have not stopped the fighting -

    Attempts for Middle East ceasefires amid the coronavirus crisis have not stopped the fightingCalls for coronavirus ceasefires have not halted Middle East battles

  • Oil rockets as Trump signals end to price war -

    Oil rockets as Trump signals end to price warOil prices rocketed Thursday, posting the largeset percent increase ever, after US President Donald Trump said Russia and Saudi Arabia planned to end their price war by slashing output. After Trump tweeted that Saudi and Russia could slash production by up to 15 million barrels, Brent hit $36.29 a barrel, up almost 46 percent, and West Texas Intermediate soared around 35 percent to $27.39.

  • Philippine leader says coronavirus lockdown violators could be shot -

    Philippine leader says coronavirus lockdown violators could be shotThe president of the Philippines said Wednesday in a televised address that people who violate coronavirus lockdown rules could be shot.

  • Iran?s Parliament Speaker Larijani Quarantined With Coronavirus -
  • Cuban docs fighting coronavirus around world, defying US -

    Cuban docs fighting coronavirus around world, defying USFor two years the Trump administration has been trying to stamp out one of Cuba?s signature programs __ state-employed medical workers treating patients around the globe in a show of soft power that also earns billions in badly needed hard currency. Labeling the doctors and nurses as both exploited workers and agents of communist indoctrination, the U.S. has notched a series of victories as Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia sent home thousands after leftist governments allied with Havana were replaced with ones friendlier to Washington. The coronavirus pandemic has brought a reversal of fortune for Cuban medical diplomacy, as doctors have flown off on new missions to battle COVID-19 in at least 14 countries including Italy and the tiny principality of Andorra on the Spanish-French border, burnishing the island's international image in the middle of a global crisis.

  • "Shoot them dead": Duterte orders police to kill Filipinos who defy coronavirus lockdown -

    "Shoot them dead": Duterte orders police to kill Filipinos who defy coronavirus lockdown"Do not challenge the government," he warned the nation Wednesday. "You will lose."

  • FedEx drivers say they're not getting coronavirus protections other delivery workers receive -

    FedEx drivers say they're not getting coronavirus protections other delivery workers receiveWhile most delivery drivers can get some COVID-19 sick leave, FedEx Ground drivers, who are employed by contractors, say they?ve been left on their own.

  • Reusable respirators protect doctors and nurses against coronavirus. They aren't in the national stockpile. -

    Reusable respirators protect doctors and nurses against coronavirus. They aren't in the national stockpile.Reusable respirators protect against the coronavirus just as well as N95 face masks. But the feds didn't buy them.

  • Thailand suspends incoming passenger flights to fight coronavirus -

    Thailand suspends incoming passenger flights to fight coronavirusThailand will temporarily ban all passenger flights from landing in the country to curb the outbreak of the new coronavirus, the country's aviation agency said on Friday. The ban on incoming flights will come into effect on Saturday morning and run until the end of Monday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand said in an order published late on Friday. Anyone arriving on a flight that took off before the order came into effect will need to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in Thailand, the order said.

  • 10 Great Deals on Apparel From REI?s 25% off Sale -
  • Trump Responds to Schumer?s Coronavirus Criticism: ?I Never Knew How Bad a Senator You Are? -

    Trump Responds to Schumer?s Coronavirus Criticism: ?I Never Knew How Bad a Senator You Are?President Trump sent a scathing letter to Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) after the Senate minority leader criticized the president?s coronavirus response and demanded that he establish someone ?unpolitical? to oversee the flow of medical equipment to embattled providers.?No wonder AOC and others are thinking about running against you in the primary. If they did, they would likely win,? Trump wrote. ? . . . I've known you for many years, but I never knew how bad a senator you are for the state of New York, until I became president."> Trump sends a letter to Sen. Schumer and it is worth reading in full.> > -- Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) April 2, 2020The criticism comes after Schumer claimed Trump was politicizing the government?s coronavirus response, after reports that hospitals and other medical providers are facing shortages of crucial medical equipment. ?It is the cruelestirony that this nation is now dependent on China for many of these products,? Governor Andrew Cuomo said at his daily press briefing on Thursday.?I am calling on the administration to put in charge of both production and distribution of materials a military man as czar under the [Defense Production Act],? Schumer said Thursday on MSNBC?s Morning Joe. "We need someone unpolitical to produce the materials more quickly and to distribute them to the places that are most needed ? to not have my governor have to call up California and compete with other states.?Trump initially responded on Twitter, saying ?we do have a military man in charge of distributing goods,? in reference to Rear Admiral John P. Polowczyk, who is overseeing the supply chain task force at FEMA.> ?It wouldn?t matter if you got ten times what was needed, it would never be good enough. Unlike other states, New York unfortunately got off to a late start. You should have pushed harder. Stop complaining & find out where all of these supplies are going. Cuomo working hard!> > -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2020He added in later tweets that ?Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the Federal Government.?Schumer then sent a letter to Trump to further press the issue, accusing the Trump administration of ?tardiness and inadequacy? in its response.?The existing federal leadership void has left America with an ugly spectacle in which States and cities are literally fending for themselves,? Schumer wrote. ? . . . The only way we will fix our PPE and ventilator shortage is with a data-driven, organized and robust plan from the federal government.?The president then responded with his own letter. ?Thank you for your Democrat public relations letter and incorrect sound bites, which are wrong in every way,? Trump opened.He then reiterated the points from his tweets, before laying into the Democrat further.?If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers), and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been so completely unprepared,? Trump leveled. ?. . . You have been missing in action, except when it comes to the ?press.??

  • A California ER nurse told her family that if she gets COVID-19 she doesn't want a ventilator and to give it to someone else who needs it more -

    A California ER nurse told her family that if she gets COVID-19 she doesn't want a ventilator and to give it to someone else who needs it more"If I were to get really sick, my sisters know I don't want to take a ventilator from someone else who may need it," Paige said.

  • Italy sees signs of hope despite 766 new virus deaths -

    Italy sees signs of hope despite 766 new virus deathsItaly saw more evidence Friday that it might have made it through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic despite the world-leading death toll growing by 766 to 14,681. In new data from the civil protection service the daily rise of officially registered infections dropped to a new low of just four percent. The situation in some of Italy's worst-hit regions also appears to be gradually easing.

  • ?Inexcusable?: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Goes Off on Georgia Governor?s?Stunning? Coronavirus Admission -

    ?Inexcusable?: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Goes Off on Georgia Governor?s?Stunning? Coronavirus AdmissionDr. Sanjay Gupta was visibly furious on Thursday afternoon as he watched footage of Georgia?s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp defend his delayed response to the coronavirus pandemic by claiming that he had just found out it can be transmitted asymptomatically.?Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad, but we didn?t know that until the last 24 hours,? Kemp said on Wednesday when he finally announced a state-wide shelter-in-place order. He referred to the revelation as a ?game-changer.??I?m really kind of stunned by what he said, because we?ve known that for quite some time, haven?t we?? anchor Anderson Cooper said to his CNN colleague.?Anderson, this is inexcusable,? Gupta said, adding, ?My kids who go to school in Georgia knew that a month ago.? He noted that the CDC, which is based in Kemp?s state, warned about asymptomatic transmission as early as Feb. 4. ?We?ve known this for a long time,? he said. ?To say that we?ve just found out in the last 24 hours and that?s why we?re doing this, this is just not right.?Seth Meyers Exposes Fox News? Sean Hannity Over Huge Coronavirus ?Hoax? LieGupta went on to say that he finds it ?very hard to believe? that Kemp, who narrowly defeated Stacey Abrams in 2018 while serving as Georgia?s secretary of state, was being honest in his comments while Cooper said that the governor is guilty of ?political malpractice? if not outright ?criminal? negligence.?If it?s true that he just heard that, he just learned that,? Cooper said later, ?then he has not been paying attention and he has not been doing his job. That is completely irresponsible.??He?s not been paying attention to the most important issue that he?ll probably ever run into in his lifetime and certainly as governor,? Gupta added. ?And he says, ?I just found out about this??? All he could do was shake his head in disgust.Dr. Sanjay Gupta Tells Colbert Trump ?Failed? Americans With Coronavirus ResponseRead more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

  • Asian countries impose new restrictions as coronavirus cases come roaring back -

    Asian countries impose new restrictions as coronavirus cases come roaring backAfter appearing to have the virus under control, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong are imposing new controls as COVID-19 infections continue to rise.

  • Medical stockpile seized from alleged hoarder to be distributed -

    Medical stockpile seized from alleged hoarder to be distributedU.S. officials have seized a stockpile of personal protective equipment from an alleged hoarder.

  • More than 1,000 in US die in a single day from coronavirus, doubling the worst daily death toll of the flu -

    More than 1,000 in US die in a single day from coronavirus, doubling the worst daily death toll of the fluThe U.S. passed 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day Wednesday, a daily death toll more than double lung cancer and the flu.

  • Countries face 'fights' over facemasks in China: German health minister -

    Countries face 'fights' over facemasks in China: German health ministerCountries' procurement agents are fighting each other in China for access to the protective equipment that must play a key role in stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said. "You hear stories of people fighting in the truest sense of the word over these masks in China," he told reporters on Friday during a visit to a logistics company that is acting for the German government. Germany's mix of lockdown measures and aggressive testing for the novel coronavirus has so far been successful in slowing the spread of the disease, with each patient only infecting one other on average in recent days.

  • Pandemic pushes U.S. gun sales to all-time high -

    Pandemic pushes U.S. gun sales to all-time highThe FBI conducted 3.7 million background checks last month, the highest total since the national instant check system was launched in 1998.

  • Trump nominates McConnell ally to powerful appeals court -

    Trump nominates McConnell ally to powerful appeals courtPresident Donald Trump is nominating a 37-year-old judge and former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Walker drew a ?Not Qualified" rating from the American Bar Association when Trump nominated him last year to be a federal judge in Kentucky.

  • A landlord sent an email blast to 300 tenants telling them to pay rent. It inadvertently helped them organize a rent strike. -

    A landlord sent an email blast to 300 tenants telling them to pay rent. It inadvertently helped them organize a rent strike.The message backfired, and now tenants have started organizing a rent strike, which could begin in May.

  • Rights groups lament latest Taiwan execution -

    Rights groups lament latest Taiwan executionRights activists on Friday condemned Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's government for executing a convicted murderer, saying the continued use of capital punishment undermined the island's progressive reputation. Death row inmate Weng Jen-hsien, found guilty last year of setting a fire that killed his parents and four relatives in 2016, was executed by a firing squad on Wednesday, the justice ministry said. Weng, 53, was the second man to be executed since Tsai came to power in 2016 despite a pledge to eventually abolish the death penalty.

  • A small Georgia city is facing hundreds of coronavirus cases after residents flocked to a beloved janitor's funeral -

    A small Georgia city is facing hundreds of coronavirus cases after residents flocked to a beloved janitor's funeralAtlanta's Dougherty County has reported 490 confirmed cases of COVID-19, that all emerged after two funerals were held in the town of Albany.

  • Trump administration ended pandemic early-warning program to detect coronaviruses -

    Trump administration ended pandemic early-warning program to detect coronavirusesThe program had worked with labs in Wuhan, China, and around the world to detect deadly viruses that could jump from animals to humans.

  • Coronavirus: Islamophobia concerns after India mosque outbreak -

    Coronavirus: Islamophobia concerns after India mosque outbreakOutrage over a Muslim congregation that led to new Covid-19 cluster turns hateful.

  • Some Coronavirus Patients Show Signs of Brain Ailments -

    Some Coronavirus Patients Show Signs of Brain AilmentsNeurologists around the world say that a small subset of patients with COVID-19 are developing serious impairments of the brain.Although fever, cough and difficulty breathing are the typical hallmarks of infection with the new coronavirus, some patients exhibit altered mental status, or encephalopathy, a catchall term for brain disease or dysfunction that can have many underlying causes, as well as other serious conditions. These neurological syndromes join other unusual symptoms, such as diminished sense of smell and taste as well as heart ailments.In early March, a 74-year-old man came to the emergency room in Boca Raton, Florida, with a cough and a fever, but an X-ray ruled out pneumonia and he was sent home. The next day, when his fever spiked, family members brought him back. He was short of breath, and could not tell doctors his name or explain what was wrong -- he had lost the ability to speak.The patient, who had chronic lung disease and Parkinson's, was flailing his arms and legs in jerky movements, and appeared to be having a seizure. Doctors suspected he had COVID-19, and were eventually proven right when he was finally tested.On Tuesday, doctors in Detroit reported another disturbing case involving a female airline worker in her late 50s with COVID-19. She was confused, and complained of a headache; she could tell the physicians her name but little else, and became less responsive over time. Brain scans showed abnormal swelling and inflammation in several regions, with smaller areas where some cells had died.Physicians diagnosed a dangerous condition called acute necrotizing encephalopathy, a rare complication of influenza and other viral infections."The pattern of involvement, and the way that it rapidly progressed over days, is consistent with viral inflammation of the brain," Dr. Elissa Fory, a neurologist with Henry Ford Health System, said through an email. "This may indicate the virus can invade the brain directly in rare circumstances." The patient is in critical condition.These domestic reports follow similar observations by doctors in Italy and other parts of the world, of COVID-19 patients having strokes, seizures, encephalitislike symptoms and blood clots, as well as tingling or numbness in the extremities, called acroparesthesia. In some cases, patients were delirious even before developing fever or respiratory illness, according to Dr. Alessandro Padovani, whose hospital at University of Brescia in Italy opened a separate NeuroCovid unit to care for patients with neurological conditions.The patients who come in with encephalopathy are confused and lethargic and may appear dazed, exhibiting strange behavior or staring off into space. They may be having seizures that require immediate medical care, and experts are warning health care providers who treat such patients to recognize that they may have COVID-19 and to take precautions to protect themselves from infection.Much is still unknown about the neurological symptoms, but efforts are underway to study the phenomena, said Dr. Sherry H-Y. Chou, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who is leading a team of investigators for the Neurocritical Care Society."We absolutely need to have an information finding mission, otherwise we're flying blind," Chou said. "There's no ventilator for the brain. If the lungs are broken we can put the patient on a ventilator and hope for recovery. We don't have that luxury with the brain."Experts have emphasized that most COVID-19 patients appear to be normal neurologically."Most people are showing up awake and alert, and neurologically appear to be normal," said Dr. Robert Stevens, a neurologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore who is tracking neurological observations.Neurological specialists also say that it is too early to make definitive statements or identify the specific mechanisms by which the new coronavirus is affecting the neurological system.In one recent paper, Chinese scientists noted that there was some evidence that other coronaviruses were not confined to the respiratory tract and invaded the central nervous system, and the authors speculated that this may potentially play a role in acute respiratory failure in COVID-19.Stevens emphasized that all mechanistic explanations at this point are hypotheses because so little is known: "It could be as simple as low levels of oxygen in the bloodstream," resulting from respiratory failure, along with an increase in carbon dioxide, which "can have significant impact on the function of the brain, and lead to states of confusion and lethargy," he said."We are still in the early days of this, and we don't really know for sure."Neurologists in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started, were among the first to report the symptoms in a preliminary paper published online in February.Since that report, specialists observed similar symptoms in Germany, France, Austria, Italy and Holland as well as the United States, including among patients under 60, Stevens said.Some doctors have reported cases of patients who were brought in for treatment because of their altered mental state, and who ultimately tested positive for COVID-19, although they had none of the classic symptoms like fever or cough.Four elderly patients who came into Danbury Hospital in Connecticut with encephalopathy ultimately tested positive for COVID-19, although they had no other symptoms, said Dr. Paul Nee, an infectious disease specialist at the hospital. Two of the four went on to develop low grade fevers and needed oxygen briefly, but two did not, he said.While it is not unusual for elderly people to experience confusion when they develop other infections, "the striking thing is we have not seen any real respiratory illness in these patients," Nee said. They have continued to test positive and cannot be discharged, even though they are not really ill, he said.But earlier reports had indicated that severely ill individuals with more typical symptoms were more likely to exhibit the rare neurological conditions, which ranged from dizziness and headaches to impaired consciousness, stroke and musculoskeletal injury. The Chinese study in February said that about 15% of those patients with severe illness experienced a change in mental status, compared with 2.4% of those who did not have severe illness, according to that study.Another study, published in the British Medical Journal in late March, found that of 113 patients from Wuhan who died of COVID-19, 22% had experienced disorders of consciousness, ranging from somnolence to deep coma, compared with only 1% of another group of patients who recovered from the illness.For potential COVID-19 patients and the people caring for them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes "new confusion or inability to rouse" among the warning signs that should prompt a decision to seek immediate medical care.Patients who have encephalopathy and seem confused or incoherent are prone to having seizures, and should receive treatment as soon as possible, said Dr. Jennifer Frontera, a neurologist at NYU Langone Health who is working with Chou. She added that seizures can manifest in more subtle ways than the dramatic presentations often depicted in movies and television shows."Seizures are not always big things where people fall down and are shaking on the ground," Frontera said. "Some could be just veering off, not paying attention, making repetitive nonpurposeful movements, or just mental status changes where people are just not themselves."But even if seizures are not observed, people who are sick should be aware of other potential mental symptoms."You don't feel your best when you have a fever, but you should be able to interact normally," Frontera said. "You should be able to answer questions and converse in a normal fashion."She added: "I don't want everyone calling 911 because they're overly concerned. We just don't have the capacity. But if someone is really out of it, they probably need medical attention."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

  • Exclusive: Navy probe to decide future of fired U.S. carrier commander -

    Exclusive: Navy probe to decide future of fired U.S. carrier commanderEven as he is hailed as a hero by his crew, the fired commander of a coronavirus-stricken U.S. aircraft carrier is being reassigned while investigators consider whether he should face disciplinary action, acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told Reuters on Friday. Captain Brett Crozier was relieved of his command of the Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday after a scathing letter in which he called on the Navy for stronger action to halt the spread of the virus aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was leaked to the media. Modly said in an interview that the letter was shared too widely and leaked before even he could see it.

  • A New Jersey doctor is the first emergency physician to die from coronavirus in the US -

    A New Jersey doctor is the first emergency physician to die from coronavirus in the USFrank Gabrin, 60, died in his husband's arms just days after he developed symptoms consistent with the virus. He was a two-time cancer survivor.

  • Dr. Fauci: 'I don't understand' why there's not a stay-at-home order in every state -

    Dr. Fauci: 'I don't understand' why there's not a stay-at-home order in every stateDr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, thinks every U.S. state should have a stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic.Fauci, member of President Trump's coronavirus task force, spoke to CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday and was asked if it "makes sense to you" that some U.S. states still don't have stay-at-home orders, with Cooper saying, "Doesn't everybody have to be on the same page with this stuff?" Fauci agreed with that notion."I think so, Anderson," Fauci said. "I don't understand why that's not happening."Fauci went on to say he didn't want to get into "the tension between federally mandated vs. states' rights to do what they want" but argued, "if you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that. We really should be."Trump has resisted a nationwide stay-at-home order, saying Wednesday, "we have to have a little bit of flexibility," per CNN. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said earlier this week, though, that the federal government's social distancing guidelines, which Trump recently extended until the end of April, should be looked at as a "national stay-at-home order." > Dr. Anthony Fauci made it clear that he supports all Americans being under a stay-at-home order.> > "If you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that. We really should be." CNNTownHall> > -- Anderson Cooper 360 (@AC360) April 3, 2020More stories from Social distancing is going to get darker 5 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's TV ratings boast Donald Trump is playing with revolutionary fire

  • The US Army warned 2 months ago that the coronavirus could kill as many as 150,000 Americans -

    The US Army warned 2 months ago that the coronavirus could kill as many as 150,000 AmericansWhat was a worst-case scenario is now nearly a best possible outcome as the White House warns that 100,000 to 240,000 people could die.

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