A loss of a sense of smell or taste may be a symptom of COVID-19, warned medical groups representing ear, nose and throat specialists.
Citing a growing number of cases around the globe, the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and ENT UK each issued warnings about patients who tested positive for the new coronavirus with the only symptom being a lost or altered sense of smell or taste.
In a statement, the academy said anecdotal evidence is rapidly accumulating from sites around the world that anosmia and dysgeusia are significant symptoms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Anosmia is the loss of smell while dysgeusia is an altered sense of taste.
According to a joint statement by president of the British Rhinological SocietyClaire Hopkins, South Korea, China and Italy have all reported “significant numbers” of known COVID-19 patients with lost or reduced sense of smell.
The academy advised that these symptoms should be added to the list for screening patients for possible COVID-19 infection, and ENT UK said the symptoms should signal to health care professionals treating a patient to wear full personal protective equipment.
The academy added some patients have experienced the symptom early on in COVID-19 illnesses, while others experience it further into the illness.
“The symptoms are clearly not as common as cough, fever and shortness of breath, but in the absence of a known cause for the smell disorder, this symptom may be an additional identifier for infected patients,” it said to USA TODAY in a statement.
With the seasonal flu, patients can experience a cluster of symptoms as the illness begins, including a cough, fever, congestion, fatigue and loss of smell or taste.
Dr. Gregory Levitin of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai said what is most unusual about this new finding is that the loss of smell or taste was the only presenting symptom in a group of patients under the age of 40 who ultimately tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
He added damage to nerves in the naval cavity is believed to cause anosmia.
He further said while losing smell or taste can affect a patient’s quality of life, it can also be serious given that it impedes their ability to discern possibly dangerous odors, like gas leaks.
Patients could recover their sense of smell fully, permanently lose it or land anywhere in between.
Edited by Radzi Ahmad