Losing your sense of smell or taste could be an indicator you have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, experts warn.
While research on COVID-19 and its symptoms is still emerging, data from South Korea show that roughly 30 percent of asymptomatic patients reported losing their sense of smell, according to a statement released by ENT UK, an organization representing Ear, Nose and Throat medical professionals.
This suggests that people who feel healthy but develop anosmia—the medical term for loss of smell—may slow the spread of coronavirus by self-isolating. Experts explain why everyone should take this anecdotal evidence seriously.
“In Germany it is reported that more than 2 in 3 confirmed cases have anosmia. In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30 percent of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases,” writes Clare Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, and Nirmal Kumar, president of the British Association of Otorhinolaryngology, in the statement.
Additionally, asymptomatic patients with COVID-19 reported losing their sense of taste, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people isolate at home if they experience COVID-19 symptoms, e.g., cough, fever, or have come into contact with someone who has the disease. As coronavirus spreads across America, local governments, including New York, California, and Ohio, are asking everyone to stay at home. Hopkins says people who lose their sense of smell should take this news seriously.
“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,” Hopkins told The New York Times. “It could contribute to slowing transmission and save lives.”
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