Loss of smell could be a symptom of COVID-19

Henrietta Brewer
March 25, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists symptoms of the new coronavirus as fever, cough and shortness of breath, and that there's now no treatment or vaccine.

United Kingdom researchers have launched an app to help track the spread of Covid-19 and explore who is most at risk from the disease in an attempt to better understand the pandemic.

One of the major complications of COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen, is that many who transmit the illness will show mild or no symptoms, making it very hard to identify how many people are infected with the disease and who is therefore likely to pass it on to others. About 40% of patients recovering from a viral illness report a loss of smell, according to Dr. D.J. Verret, who's double board certified in otolaryngology, head and neck, and facial plastic surgery.

Professor Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, and Professor Nirmal Kumar, president of ENT UK, released a joint statement saying there had been a sudden rise "in cases of isolated anosmia" in the some countries, including UK, US, France and northern Italy.

The Academy informed doctors that when present in the absence of other obvious causes, such as allergies or sinusitis, these symptoms indicate possible "Covid-19 infection and warrant serious consideration for self-isolation and testing of these individuals".


Experts at the World Health Organization say they have not confirmed that loss of smell or taste is a symptom of the coronavirus, but they have not ruled it out.

The WHO and CDC haven't added anosmia to their coronavirus symptom lists, which health care workers use to screen patients who might have been infected with coronavirus. He immediately chose to self-isolate and tell his employer.

Anosmia and hyposmia are historically linked to early symptoms of upper-respiratory infections - including previous strains of coronavirus - because the virus damages olfactory bulbs that are involved in the sense of smell.

This means it could be a way for silent carriers to realize they could be carrying the virus and they can self-quarantine. In my practice, patients all around me are reporting this. However, doctors still say everyone should treat any potential symptom like it's a positive test, and not infect anyone else.

The surgeons have also said that this new symptom could be used as a "screening tool" to identify patients who are not having common symptoms of the COVID-19 such as fever, dry cough, or sore throat.


"Anosmia, in particular, has been seen in patients ultimately testing positive for the coronavirus with no other symptoms", the academy wrote.

"I think these patients may be some of the hidden carriers that have facilitated the rapid spread of the virus".

"The speed of what we are trying to do here is important - we put this whole project together in five days which would normally take about five months", he added, noting there is no NHS equivalent.

If you do lose your sense of smell you need to be careful as you could miss warning signs for things like leaking gas or fires. They don't have a good sense of smell.

As a result, she says, many ENT doctors have already stopped making routine examinations and are wearing personal protective equipment, as is the case in her department. "We don't have the answer to that yet".


However, now in Australia, you do not meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing if you have lost your sense of smell.

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