Monday, 06 April, 2020


The early coronavirus infection warning sign you should look out for

UK expert Loss of taste and smell could be crucial symptoms of coronavirus
Patty Aguilar | 26 March, 2020, 02:15

"With the pandemic now going on, if you are young or old and have an unexplained smell loss come on quite quickly, even in the setting of minimal respiratory symptoms, you should be highly suspicious that you might have acquired infection with coronavirus or another respiratory virus", said Richard Harvey, vice president of the Australia and New Zealand Rhinologic Society.

While a loss of smell or taste doesn't necessarily mean you have coronavirus and could be due to allergies, flu, or a different viral infection, people experiencing a loss or adjustment in their sense of smell or taste may want to get tested or, at the very least, self-isolate.

"There is already good evidence from South Korea, China, and Italy that significant numbers of patients with proven COVID-19 infection have developed anosmia/hyposmia", a statement from ENTUK reads.

Loss of smell is still only anecdotally verified as a COVID-19 symptom, and it is not known how common it is across all confirmed cases.

Nirmal Kumar, president of ENT UK, has noticed a sharp rise in cases of isolated anosmia - the total or partial loss of smell, without any nasal blockages - not only in Britain, but also across Europe and beyond.

The professors called for anyone showing symptoms of loss of taste or smell to go into isolation for seven days to avoid further spread.

In the areas most heavily affected by the virus in Italy doctors are also concluding that the loss of taste and smell is an indication that an otherwise healthy person is in fact carrying the virus and may be spreading it to others.

In an email, British Rhinological Society chief Claire Hopkins said, "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". They also are advising against performing any nonessential sinus endoscopy procedures because the virus replicates in the nose and throat, meaning any exam could prompt coughs and/or sneezing that can expose doctors to a high level of the virus should the patient be infected.

"Anosmia, in particular, has been seen in patients ultimately testing positive for the coronavirus with no other symptoms", the academy wrote.

It might probe to be a useful screening tool for COVID-19, they say.

In France the head of the health service, Jerome Salomon, on Friday said ENT specialists had observed a "surge" in anosmia cases and said while it was still relatively rare, it had been seen in younger patients with "mild" symptoms.

In Germany, Hendrik Streeck, a virologist at the University of Bonn, interviewed more than 100 coronavirus patients. Speaking to STATNews, rhinologist Eric Holbrook says this new observation should not be used as a single screening factor, but rather it can be incorporated into broader considerations when evaluating potentially infected patients. Again, this affirms the potential for anosmia to be an early symptom, appearing initially as the virus takes hold in a patient's nose and throat. Vivekanandan said she is more concerned about fever, cough and shortness of breath in connection with the virus.

Not many prior epidemiological studies into COVID-19 cases have collected data on anosmia, so at this stage it is unclear how common this symptom may be.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery on Sunday noted growing anecdotal evidence that anosmia and dysgeusia - taste disorder - were "significant symptoms" of the virus.

Clinicians in the US and elsewhere around the world have reported, anecdotally, that some patients infected with the virus experience anosmia, or an inability to smell. While saying this, Hopkins also said that in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the pandemic, reports had said that many ENT as well as eye specialists had been infected and had died of coronavirus infection.

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