Coronavirus has affected people in different ways throughout the world. Some are only suffering with mild symptoms, while the highly infectious disease is life-threatening to others, having killed nearly 55,000 people worldwide.
What is anosmia?
Reports have emerged of a new COVID-19 symptom, known to scientists and doctors as anosmia.
Anosmia is where sufferers lose their sense of smell and taste completely.
New research from a team at King’s College London has looked at responses from more than 400,000 people reporting suspected COVID-19 symptoms and found loss of taste and smell to be one of the most reported symptoms.
However, loss of smell and taste are also signs of other respiratory infections, such as the common cold.
Anosmia is not on the list of official symptoms for COVID-19
Coronavirus is passed through infected water droplets
Of those reporting one or more symptoms of coronavirus to the Covid Symptom Tracker app:
- 53 percent said they had fatigue or tiredness
- 29 percent persistent cough
- 28 percent shortness of breath
- 18 percent loss of sense of smell or taste
- 10.5 percent suffered from fever
Of these 400,000 people, 1,702 said they had been tested for COVID-19, with 579 receiving a positive result and 1,123 a negative one.
Social distancing and self isolation measures are still in place
Of those who had used the app, 59 percent tested positive.
Dr Asif Qasim, founder of MedShr, a professional network connecting over a million doctors worldwide, explains that the symptom, otherwise known as anosmia, is not unique to COVID-19.
He said: “Loss of smell can occur with many of the viruses that cause coughs and colds, and in about 40 percent of patients whose main problem is a loss of smell the underlying cause is a virus.
“The cause is likely to be inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, which can affect the olfactory receptors and nerves that are responsible for our sense of smell.
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“In COVID-19 in South Korea about half the patients reported anosmia, and in Germany it has been two out of three.
“This is particularly important as a treatment for acute loss of smell is steroid therapy but that makes COVID-19 infection worse.”
As a novel virus, medical professionals and scientists are still researching coronavirus and are yet to have definitive answers.
Public Health England and the World Health Organization have not added loss of smell and taste to the official list of key symptoms yet.
The disease has presented in a variety of ways in different people
ENT UK, the body that represents Ear, Nose and Throat doctors, says it is not surprising that some patients with coronavirus might report these as symptoms, but they are not specific to coronavirus only.
They advocate including them as possible coronavirus symptoms.
The King College’s researchers say loss of smell and taste might be useful extra symptoms to watch for, perhaps not on their own but alongside other important ones like a heavy cry cough, chest pains and a fever.
Lead researcher Professor Tim Spector told the BBC: “When combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be three times more likely to have contracted Covid-19 according to our data, and should therefore self-isolate for seven days to reduce the spread of the disease.”
The COVID-19 Symptom Tracker app can be used by anyone to track their own symptoms and can be downloaded on your smartphone.
It is free, and the data you submit can help researchers to try and map the scale of infections across the UK as well as identify risk factors and common symptoms among sufferers, helping to save lives.
Even if you don’t have coronavirus symptoms currently, self-reporting every day can still help researchers.