A mother who was infected with the coronavirus was unable to smell her baby’s full diaper. The chefs who usually name each spice in a restaurant dish cannot smell curry or garlic and the food tastes bland. Others say they can’t pick up on the sweet scent of shampoo or the bad smell of the kitten’s litter box.
Anosmia, loss of sense of smell and age, an accompaniment of diminished sense of taste, emerged as distinctive telltale signs of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus and possible signs of infection.
On Friday, British ear, nose and throat doctors, citing reports from colleagues around the world, invited adults who lose their sense of smell to isolate themselves for seven days, even if they have no other symptoms, for slow down the spread of the disease. Published data are limited, but doctors are concerned enough to raise warnings.
“We really want to raise awareness that this is a sign of infection and that anyone who develops loss of smell should self-isolate themselves,” Professor Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, wrote in an email. “It could help slow down transmission and save lives.”
She and Nirmal Kumar, president of ENT UK, a group representing UK ear, nose and throat doctors, issued a joint statement urging healthcare professionals to use personal protective equipment in the treatment of all patients. who have lost their sense of smell and have advised against performing non-essential sinus endoscopy procedures on anyone, because the virus replicates in the nose and throat and an examination can induce coughing or sneezing that expose the doctor to a high level of virus.
Two ear, nose and throat specialists in Britain who have been infected with the coronavirus are in critical condition, Hopkins said. Previous reports from Wuhan, China, in which the coronavirus first surfaced, had warned that ear, nose and throat specialists and ophthalmologists were infected and died in large numbers, Hopkins said.
British doctors cited reports from other countries indicating that a significant number of coronavirus patients experienced anosmia, stating that in South Korea, where tests were widespread, 30% of the 2,000 patients who tested anosmia positive had the main symptom of presentation (it was mild cases).
Sunday’s American Academy of Otolaryngology posted information on its website stating that growing anecdotal evidence indicates that loss or reduction of smell and loss of taste are significant symptoms associated with COVID-19 and that they have been observed in patients who eventually tested positive with no other symptoms.
The symptoms, in the absence of allergies or sinusitis, should alert doctors to screen patients for the virus and “justify serious consideration for self-isolation and testing for these individuals,” said the Academy. The organization reminded its members that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged all doctors to prioritize urgent and emergency visits for the coming weeks and to reschedule elective and routine procedures.
“There is evolving evidence that otolaryngologists are among the highest risk groups when performing surgery and upper airway exams,” said a notice posted on the Academy website on Friday. “A high transmission rate of COVID-19 to otolaryngologists has been reported by China, Italy and Iran, many resulting in death.”
Dr Rachel Kaye, assistant professor of otolaryngology in Rutgers, said colleagues from New Rochelle, New York, who was at the center of an outbreak, first warned her of the coronavirus-associated odor loss, By sharing the patients who had complained for the first time of anosmia, he subsequently tested positive for coronavirus. “This raised many alarms for me personally,” said Kaye, because those patients “won’t know about self-quarantine.”
“Most ENTs have attempted to downsize on their own,” he said, adding that his Rutgers department had already started using personal protective equipment and stopped performing unnecessary tests.
In the areas most affected by the virus in Italy, doctors say they have concluded that loss of taste and smell is an indication that a person who seems otherwise healthy is actually carrying the virus and could spread it to others.
“Almost everyone who is hospitalized has the same story,” said Dr. Marco Metra, head of the cardiology department of the main hospital in Brescia, where 700 of the 1,200 hospitalized patients have coronavirus. “Ask about the patient’s wife or husband. And the patient says,” My wife has just lost her smell and taste, but otherwise she is fine. “So she is probably infected and is spreading it in a very delicate form.”
A study conducted by South Korea, in which widespread tests were conducted, found that 30% of approximately 2,000 patients who tested positive for coronavirus reported suffering from anosmia.
Hendrik Streeck, a German virologist at the University of Bonn, who went from house to house in the Heinsberg district of the country to interview coronavirus patients, said in interviews that at least two thirds of the more than 100 with whom he spoke of the disease Mild have reported having experienced loss of smell and taste that lasts several days.
Another doctor who studied a group of coronavirus patients in Germany stated in an email that about half of the patients had had an odor or a taste disturbance and that sensory loss usually occurred after the first symptoms. of respiratory disease, but it could be used to distinguish people who should be tested.
Dr. Clemens Wendtner, a professor of medicine at the Academic Teaching Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, said that patients regained their ability to sniff after a few days or weeks and that the loss occurred independently of how sick they got or if they were congested. The use of nasal drops or sprays did not help, Wendtner said.
Several American patients who have had symptoms consistent with coronavirus, but who have not been tested or are still waiting for the test results, have reported that they have lost their sense of smell and taste, even if their noses were clear and untreated. they were congested.
Andrew Berry, 30, developed fever and muscle pain about 10 days ago, leading to a sore throat and debilitating headache. He tested negative for the flu and didn’t get the result of a coronavirus test performed four days ago, but his doctor was convinced he had the virus, he said.
Now, Berry said, he can’t literally smell the coffee.
“Even with a clear nose, I just realized that I couldn’t smell the food I was cooking, and I couldn’t taste the food I was making,” said Berry, an Orlando, Florida-based tattoo artist. . He was cooking a plate of plantain with onions and vinegar, but he could not smell it.
Amy Plattmier, a Brooklyn woman, was not tested for coronavirus during a recent illness, but her husband got sick and had a positive test. Amy Plattmier said she usually had a very sensitive nose, but now she could barely feel anything – not the bleach she was using to clean the counters, which usually makes her feel nauseous, or the dog accident in the bathroom , who cleaned up.
Berry also lost some weight because he didn’t have much appetite. “I hope it’s not a prolonged effect,” he said. “I can imagine that the quality of life changes.”