Both the loss of taste and smell have been anecdotally linked to a higher chance of developing the COVID-19 virus. The recent study has shown people are more than 10 times more likely to develop the virus infection than any other causes of infection.
Researchers at UC San Diego Health have reported that the first empirical findings strongly associate sensory loss with COVID-19. The team surveyed 1,480 patients who had flu-like symptoms and concerns regarding the potential of infection. Contained in that total, 102 patients tested positive for the virus and 1,378 tested negative. The study included responses from 203 COVID-19 negative patients and 59 positive patients.
68% of the positive participants reported loss of smell and 71% reported loss of taste as compared with 16% and 17% of negative patients respectively. None of the participants in the study required hospitalization or invasive breathing support. However, if social distancing was not in place, these individuals could possibly spread the infection to others within their community despite not experiencing severe symptoms.
The study has demonstrated the unique presentation and high prevalence of certain sensory impairments in patients who were positive with the virus. Of those patients who reported loss of taste and smell the loss typically profound and not mild. However, encouragingly the rate of recovery of taste and smell was high and typically occurred within two to four weeks after infection.
The study not only showed that the high occurrence of taste and smell loss is specific to the COVID-19 virus, but also fortunately has shown that the majority of people experienced sensory recovery fairly rapidly. Within the COVID-19 patients with loss of smell, more than 70% reported improvement in smell at the time of the survey. Most of those who hadn’t reported improvement had only been diagnosed recently.
The return of taste and smell typically matched the timing of recovery from the disease. Interestingly, the researchers found that people who reported experiencing a sore throat more often tested negative for the virus.
To help decrease the risk of virus transmission, UC San Diego Health now includes loss of taste and smell as a screening requirement for staff and visitors. The screening is also a marker for testing patients who might be positive for the virus.
Other symptoms of COVID-19 include fatigue, fever, difficulty breathing, and cough. Respondents in the study were most often people with milder forms of COVID-19 infection who did not require hospitalization or intubation. The team’s findings stress the importance of identifying subtle and early symptoms of the virus in people who might be at risk of transmitting the disease as they recuperate within their community.
The CDC has officially listed loss of taste and smell as symptoms of the virus which is a validation of the ruminating concerns about these symptoms around the world. It is the hope that the team’s findings inspire other institutions to follow suit and not only list taste and smell loss as a symptom of the virus, but also use it as a screening measure for the virus around the world.
To view the original scientific study click below