As new data emerges, loss of smell and taste may be a coronavirus symptom
As doctors continue to treat people testing positive for COVID-19 and scientists rush to collect data from patients, a new trend is emerging — anosmia, the loss of sense of smell, and ageusia, a loss of taste, have been noted as a possible sign of the infection.
On Friday, ENT UK, a professional organization representing ear, nose and throat surgeons in the United Kingdom asked people who have lost their sense of smell and taste to self-isolate, citing reports from colleagues around the world, the New York Times reported. In the United States, doctors have now asked for the loss of sense of smell and taste to be added to the “list of screening tools” for Covid-19.
“We really want to raise awareness that this is a sign of infection and that anyone who develops loss of sense of smell should self-isolate,” Prof. Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, wrote in an email. “It could contribute to slowing transmission and save lives.”
As more and more data is collected, some who tested positive are coming forward to say they, too, have experienced this symptom. National Basketball Association player Rudy Gobert tested positive and said he couldn’t smell or taste anything, The Mercury News reported.
Dr. Rachel Kaye, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Rutgers, said colleagues in New Rochelle, N.Y. alerted her to the possible symptoms after sharing that many who tested positive in that community also complained of anosmia. “This raised a lot of alarms for me personally,” Dr. Kaye said because those patients “won’t know to self quarantine.”
The American Academy of Otolaryngology posted information on its website, urging medical professions to take this into consideration even if patients show no other symptoms. “Anecdotal evidence is rapidly accumulating from sites around the world that anosmia and dysgeusia are significant symptoms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said. “Anosmia, in particular, has been seen in patients ultimately testing positive for the coronavirus with no other symptoms.”
The symptoms, doctors around the world are now sharing, should be considered an indicator to screen patients for the virus and “warrant serious consideration for self isolation and testing of these individuals,” the academy said.
“Most ENTs have on their own accord tried to scale down,” Dr. Kaye said, as elective procedures in many states have been canceled or rescheduled. But this new information should be top of mind for all doctors seeing patients.
Overall, “I think we’re getting a little bit more insight into the types of symptoms that patients might have,” CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said on New Day on Monday morning. “Initially this was thought to be almost solely respiratory.”