Loss of smell could be a symptom of coronavirus

Researchers all over the world are working at breakneck speed to understand and curb the novel coronavirus. One of the difficulties doctors have had in diagnosing COVID — besides insufficient testing — is that the symptoms are similar to the common cold, the flu, and allergies. But one relatively unique symptom is beginning to emerge — loss of smell. Doctors want people to know that folks who lose their sense of smell or taste should self-isolate, even if they don’t have any other symptoms, the New York Times reported.

 

That loss of smell may be an indication that a person who seems healthy is carrying the virus and can transmit it to others, the Times reported.

Research on this is still limited, but experts want us to take heed. “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, told the Times. This is important, Hopkins noted, for slowing the spread of the virus and potentially saving lives. 

RELATED: Take a look at coronavirus vaccine trials in Seattle:

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A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller, left, the first shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Jennifer Haller poses for a photo in the living room of her home, Monday, March 16, 2020, in Seattle. Earlier in the day, Haller was the first person to receive a shot of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the start of the first-stage safety study clinical trial of the vaccine at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Pharmacist Michael Witte opens a package taken from a freezer that contains the potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial of the vaccine, Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Pharmacist Michael Witte, left, gives Rebecca Sirull, right, a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Sirull is the third patient to receive the shot in the study. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Jennifer Haller is reflected in a mirror as she waits in an exam room before she was given a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential coronavirus vaccine, Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Haller was the first person to receive the shot in the study. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Pharmacist Michael Witte, left, gives Neal Browning, right, a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Browning is the second patient to receive the shot in the study. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The first clinical trials to find a coronavirus vaccine have begun at a hospital in Seattle. A total of 45 men and women have volunteered to be injected. Unlike most vaccines, these COVID-19 vaccines have not been tested on mice, and will go directly to humans due to the urgent need for the drug. Lisa Guerrero spoke with Neal Browning, one of the men who is participating in the trial. He explained what he has to go through as part of this brave new experiment.
The first clinical trials to find a coronavirus vaccine have begun at a hospital in Seattle. A total of 45 men and women have volunteered to be injected. Unlike most vaccines, these COVID-19 vaccines have not been tested on mice, and will go directly to humans due to the urgent need for the drug. Lisa Guerrero spoke with Neal Browning, one of the men who is participating in the trial. He explained what he has to go through as part of this brave new experiment.
Pharmacist Michael Witte, left, gives Rebecca Sirull, right, a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for the coronavirus, Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Sirull is the third patient to receive the shot in the study. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Dr. Lisa Jackson, a senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, poses for a photo, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Seattle. Jackson is leading the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which was given to the first volunteer in the study by injection, Monday, March 16 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Dr. Lisa Jackson, a senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, works in her office with an image of COVID-19 taped to her door, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Seattle. Jackson is leading the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which was given to the first volunteer in the study by injection, Monday, March 16. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Rebecca Sirull, center, poses for a photo with her roommates, Anna Thomas, left, and Madeleine Busch, Monday, March 16, 2020, at the home they share in Seattle. Earlier in the day, Sirull was the third person to receive a shot of a potential vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus at the start of the first-stage safety study clinical trial of the vaccine at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Rebecca Sirull works on her laptop, Monday, March 16, 2020, at her home in Seattle. Earlier in the day, Sirull, an editorial coordinator for the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, was the third person to receive a shot of a potential vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus at the start of the first-stage safety study clinical trial of the vaccine at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Doctors in Italy who were treating folks in the areas most heavily affected concluded — from their experiences with patients and their families — that loss of smell may be an indication that a person who seems healthy is carrying the virus and can transmit it to others, the Times reported.

It may seem counterintuitive, but in this moment, losing your sense of smell does not indicate a trip to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, a.k.a. an ENT. Why? Because COVID-19 replicates in the nose and throat and the coughs and sneezes ENTs are exposed to while examining folks are putting them at high risk for infection, the Times reported. According to Hopkins, ENTs and eye doctors in China were infected and died in high numbers and two British ENTs are currently in critical condition.

Not all people infected with COVID-19 will lose their sense of smell or taste, but of 2,000 infected patients in Korea, 30 percent reported loss of smell.

If you can’t smell the roses right now, take action as far as safety and diagnosis, but try not to freak out. There’s no reason to suspect the condition is permanent. Clemens Wendtner, a professor of medicine at the Academic Teaching Hospital of Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, told the Times that the loss of smell and taste is temporary, and that most patients will regain these senses after a few days or weeks.

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