Losing sense of smell may be a hidden symptom of coronavirus, doctors warn

Losing sense of smell may be a hidden symptom of coronavirus, doctors warn

Losing sense of smell may be a hidden symptom of coronavirus, doctors warn

 

While every case is different, the telltale symptoms of the novel coronavirus have been widely agreed upon — a high fever, persistent cough or shortness of breath. In the most severe instances, those afflicted have reported confusion or difficulty breathing, and sometimes, anxiety is the most prevailing symptom of all.

 

But a team of British ear, nose and throat doctors on Friday raised the possibility of a new indicator of the coronavirus, one they say has been observed globally, even in patients who are otherwise asymptomatic: anosmia, a condition that causes the loss of sense of smell. In a statement, they warned that adults experiencing recent anosmia could be unknown carriers of covid-19, and urged them to consider self-isolation.

 

“All of this evidence is accumulating very rapidly, but there’s nothing yet robustly in print,” Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, said in an interview. “Since then, I’ve had colleagues from around the world saying: ‘That’s exactly what we’re seeing.’ They’ve been trying [to raise awareness], but it hasn’t been picked up.”

Experts at the World Health Organization say they have not yet confirmed the loss of smell or taste as a symptom of the coronavirus but haven’t ruled it out.

 

Hopkins, who published the statement along with Nirmal Kumar, the president of ENT UK, a body that represents ear, nose and throat specialists in Britain, said she was driven by recent discussions on rhinological discussion boards related to the coronavirus pandemic. There, she observed ENTs reporting a surge of reported anosmia across their patients, and even among themselves.

 

In their statement, Hopkins and Kumar cited reports from South Korea, China, Iran and Italy, where, they wrote, “significant numbers of patients with proven covid-19 infection have developed anosmia/hyposmia,” the latter of which signals a reduced ability to detect smells. In Germany, they wrote, more than two-thirds of confirmed coronavirus cases included anosmia. And in South Korea, a country that has seen ample covid-19 testing, “30 percent of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases.”