Published: Thu, March 26, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Loss of smell could be a symptom of COVID-19

Loss of smell could be a symptom of COVID-19

"It's just an additional thing for us to be aware of".

A loss of smell or taste could be an early sign of infection with the new coronavirus, say medical experts who cite reports from several countries. In South Korea, some 30% of patients testing positive report lost smell as their main symptom in an otherwise mild illness.

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.

When doctors at the University Hospital Bonn in Germany recently interviewed more than 100 patients infected with COVID-19, they discovered that almost 70% "described a loss of smell and taste lasting several days", said Dr. Hendrik Streeck, head of the hospital's Institute of Virology.

While a loss of smell or taste doesn't necessarily mean you have coronavirus and could be due to allergies, flu, or a different viral infection, people experiencing a loss or adjustment in their sense of smell or taste may want to get tested or, at the very least, self-isolate.

As more and more people around the world are becoming infected by the new coronavirus, there has been a spike in people reporting a loss of smell, and by extension taste, according to doctors.

In America several suspected infected patients have reported similar symptoms, but they have not been tested and/or are still awaiting their test results; their similar reports describe losing their sense of smell and taste even though their noses were clear and they were not congested. But while evidence is unclear, it's significant enough for medical experts to call upon people to isolate themselves when they experience this symptom. Alerting everyone that they need to stay home if they cant smell would cause false alarms.

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The good news is that loss of taste and smell seem to mostly occur in mild cases, so that's actually an indicator that you might not be in danger. Being informed of these warning signs gives us an opportunity to capture those individuals who might be silent spreaders of the deadly COVID-19. Respiratory infection is a common cause of loss of smell, because inflammation can interfere with airflow and the ability to detect odors. Allergies and chronic sinus conditions also can diminish smell.

That means people who had no other symptoms, or were perhaps only in the very early stages of the disease, could have been going out in public and spreading the virus without realising they were infected.

Taste receptors in the mouth pick up only sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami, the savory meat taste. In a previous study, human coronaviruses were identified in the nasal secretions of one of the 24 anosmia patients studied.

However, now in Australia, you do not meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing if you have lost your sense of smell. Health care workers swabbing the area for virus testing typically wear full protective gear.

"Anecdotal evidence is rapidly accumulating from sites around the world that anosmia and dysgeusia [impaired sense of taste] are significant symptoms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic". Such procedures may induce patients to sneeze or cough, which would greatly expose doctors to the virus. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan, an infectious disease doctor with CHI Health, said she would not make a coronavirus determination based on diarrhea alone. "The patients I'm seeing haven't had a cough or fever at all". Sore throats are an additional symptom, she said.

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