Amid all this uncertainty and escalation, spotting the telltale signs of COVID-19 – the disease spawned from SARS-CoV- 2 – is more important than ever.
Reports have shown the viral disease can cause a spectrum of symptoms, prompting much confusion.
However, a new study conducted by researchers at UCL and UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), may have identified the most reliable indicator of COVID-19.
The key finding is that acute loss of sense of smell and/or taste appears to be the most common indicator of the viral disease.
It has long been established that COVID-19 can cause loss or reduced ability to smell (anosmia) or taste, without cough or fever.
The NHS has listed it as one of the main symptoms, alongside a new, continuous cough and fever.
According to the researchers, it’s the first time a precise figure has been calculated, however.
For this study, researchers looked at a group of people in the community with loss of smell and/or taste, to see how many had antibodies.
Since a high proportion of this group had antibodies, this suggests smell and/or taste loss is highly predictive of a COVID-19 infection.
Although self-isolation and testing on the basis of smell or taste loss alone is recommended in the UK, at a global level few countries recognise loss of smell and/or taste as symptoms and advise testing and self-isolation.
The majority are focused on fever and respiratory symptoms.
Researchers said this must change in order to slow down the spread of the pandemic.
Lead author Professor Batterham said: “As we approach a second wave of infections, early recognition of COVID-19 symptoms by the public together with rapid self-isolation and testing will be of vital importance to limit disease spread.
“Acute loss of sense of smell needs to be considered globally as a criterion of self-isolation, testing, and contact tracing.
“Our findings suggest that a key public health message is that people who notice a loss in their ability to smell everyday house-hold odours such as garlic, onions, coffee, and perfumes should self-isolate and seek PCR testing.”
What should I do if I lose my taste and/or sense of smell?
According to the NHS, if you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus:
- Get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.
- Stay at home and do not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.