Loss of smell, taste might signal infection

Henrietta Strickland
March 26, 2020

Anosmia (loss of smell) and hyposmia (reduced ability to smell) are both historically linked to early symptoms of upper respiratory infections such as the previous strains of coronavirus.

A new app has been launched that tracks symptoms related to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), allowing anyone to self-report daily.

"With the pandemic now going on, if you are young or old and have an unexplained smell loss come on quite quickly, even in the setting of minimal respiratory symptoms, you should be highly suspicious that you might have acquired infection with coronavirus or another respiratory virus", said Richard Harvey, vice president of the Australia and New Zealand Rhinologic Society.

Anecdotal evidence further describes the loss of smell and the loss of taste - known as dysgeusia - in people who had no other symptoms but who tested positive for COVID-19, representatives of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) in Alexandria, Virginia, said in a March 22 statement.

He believes patients who display a sudden loss of smell or taste could have the coronavirus without realising it, even if they don't display a high temperature or a continuous new cough, which are the primary indicators of infection.

The professors asked anyone who displays the symptoms of loss of taste or smell to self-isolate for seven days to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the virus.

"Somebody who has had a loss of smell over the past year, that is not what we are talking about", said Dr. Peter Zonakis an otolaryngologist at Grand River Health.

Maria Van Kerkhove, an outbreak expert at the World Health Organization, told reporters Monday that the United Nations health agency is looking into the question of whether the loss of smell or taste is a defining feature of the disease. Professor Hopkins said that going on self-isolation after experiencing this early infection symptom could contribute to the drive of the government to slow down transmission and save lives. In my practice, patients all around me are reporting this. For instance, a significant citation comes from South Korea, where testing has been carried out on a mass scale.

The new Covid Symptom Tracker app aims to help stop coronavirus' spread.

Hopefully, it can also show why some people don't show as severe symptoms as others. "The patient says, 'My wife has just lost her smell and taste, but otherwise she is well.' So she is likely infected, and she is spreading it". Again, this affirms the potential for anosmia to be an early symptom, appearing initially as the virus takes hold in a patient's nose and throat.

A third specialist, Clemens Wendtner, added two details: the loss of smell is transient, usually lasting a few weeks at most, and it is independent of the severity of clinical illness and the presence of congestion.

Many people who have lost their sense of smell initially turned to Twitter for answers, especially ones who had no other symptoms of COVID-19. While saying this, Hopkins also said that in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the pandemic, reports had said that many ENT as well as eye specialists had been infected and had died of coronavirus infection.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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