A new telltale sign of COVID-19 has been identified. It seems that loss of smell could be an early symptom.
According to The New York Times, the loss of smell (called anosmia) and the decrease in taste (ageusia) have emerged as potential markers of infection.
The New York Times compiled examples from China, Italy and South Korea where a loss or diminished sense of smell or taste was a common symptom for those who tested positive to COVID-19.
“Almost everybody who is hospitalized has this same story,” Dr. Marco Metra, chief of the cardiology department at the main hospital in Brescia, Italy, told The New York Times.
“You ask about the patient’s wife or husband. And 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 with a very mild form.”
Research of roughly 2,000 COVID-19 patients in South Korea found that 30% of them reported anosmia.
Two physicians from Germany also had similar findings, as reported by the Times. Hendrik Streeck, a German virologist from the University of Bonn, has interviewed more than 100 coronavirus patients and found at least two-thirds have suffered from loss of taste and smell.
According to the Times, the loss of smell can be so severe that you’re unable to detect coffee, the smell of cooking onions and in some cases, bleach, which has a notoriously strong scent.
Despite the loss in taste and smell, it is only temporary. Dr. Clemens Wendtner, a professor of medicine at the Academic Teaching Hospital of Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, told the Times that patients often regained their senses after a few days or weeks.
British ear, nose and throat doctors have also gone as far to ask those who experience loss of senses to self-isolate for seven days — even if they have no other symptoms. While the Times has revealed that data on this subject is limited, doctors are worried enough to tell the public despite the lack of evidence.
So, keep an eye on your sense of smell and taste from here on out. If this is something you’re experiencing (without the presence of allergies or sinusitis), flag it with your doctor over the phone.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath.
The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.