Loss of smell could be a coronavirus symptom, but some experts wary

A sudden loss of smell is being presented as a possible new sign of the novel coronavirus, particularly in those with no other symptoms.

The British Association of Otorhinolaryngology (ENT UK) raised the issue in a statement on Friday, citing the “rapidly growing number of reports” of patients with little to no other symptoms losing their sense of smell. ENT UK said it could be an important marker of the infection for which health-care workers should consider asking people to self-isolate.

The ENT UK — made up of leading British ear, nose and throat doctors — cites compiled reports from countries like Germany and South Korea, where patients presented anosmia as their “major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases,” meaning without coughing and high fever.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough and tiredness. Anosmia is the loss of the sense of smell, either totally or partially, while ageusia is the loss of taste functions of the tongue.

The researchers called for people experiencing the loss of smell or taste to self-isolate, saying the reports suggest they could be “hidden carriers” capable of facilitating the spread of the virus.

“If anosmia was added to the current symptom criteria used to trigger quarantine, and any adult with anosmia but no other symptoms was asked to self isolate for seven days, we might potentially be able to reduce the number of otherwise asymptomatic individuals who continue to act as vectors, not realizing the need to self-isolate,” their statement reads.

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