Loss of smell and taste could be early warning signs of Covid-19: study

14 April 2020 - 15:25 By AFP Relaxnews
Patients reporting a loss of taste or smell are more likely to have contracted COVID-19 than other infections, according to new research.
Patients reporting a loss of taste or smell are more likely to have contracted COVID-19 than other infections, according to new research.
Image: 123RF/ocusfocus

After reports that those infected with Covid-19 have experienced a loss of taste and smell, new US research has found evidence that individuals who lose these two senses are 10 times more likely to be infected with the virus.

Carried out by researchers at UC San Diego Health, the new study looked at survey responses from 262 patients reporting flu-like symptoms, 59 of whom had tested positive for Covid-19 and 203 who had tested negative.

Many of those who report a loss of smell and taste also said that the loss was profound, not mild

The findings, published in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, showed that of the Covid-19-positive patients, 68% reported a loss of smell and 71% reported a loss of taste. That's compared to 16% and 17% of patients who had tested negative.

Moreover, many of those who report a loss of smell and taste also said that the loss was profound, not mild. However, the good news is that most patients regained the two senses usually within two to four weeks.

“Based on our study, if you have smell and taste loss, you are more than 10 times more likely to have Covid-19 infection than other causes of infection,” said study author Dr Carol Yan.

“The most common first sign of a Covid-19 infection remains fever, but fatigue and loss of smell and taste follow as other very common initial symptoms.

“We know Covid-19 is an extremely contagious virus. This study supports the need to be aware of smell and taste loss as early signs of Covid-19.”

Yan added: “It is our hope that with these findings other institutions will follow suit and not only list smell and taste loss as a symptom of Covid-19, but use it as a screening measure for the virus across the world.”

Other known symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, fatigue, cough and difficulty breathing.

The researchers also noted that interestingly, they found that experiencing a sore throat was associated with testing negative for the disease.