UK Doctors Warn That Lost Sense Of Smell May Be COVID-19 Symptom In Healthy-Looking People

Many countries have reported patients with anosmia that later tested positive for COVID-19.

Cover image via The Straits Times/Business Insider & Bernama/Free Malaysia Today

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the world, there have been a growing number of infected patients with the single symptom of anosmia - the loss of the ability to detect smell

According to a press release by The Royal College of Surgeons of England, experts said that this loss of ability to smell could be a sign of the coronavirus infection in people who appear otherwise well.

The ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists wrote in a joint statement that loss of sense of smell is a common symptom caused by viruses that give rise to the common cold.

It was no surprise to them that the novel COVID-19 virus would also cause anosmia in infected patients.

Image via AFP/Asia Times

They reported that there is good evidence from South Korea, China, and Germany, that a significant number of COVID-19 patients developed a loss or reduced sense of smell in the absence of other symptoms

30% of patients in South Korea who tested postive for COVID-19 had anosmia as their major
presenting symptom, but they were almost always mild cases.

Meanwhile, in Germany, they reported that more than two in three confirmed cases had lost their sense of smell.

Image via ABC News

They also wrote that many of their colleagues from the US, France, and Northern Italy have had the same observations

While they were writing from personal experience, it has since been reported by The New York Times that the American Academy of Otolaryngology, too, has seen patients with anosmia who ultimately tested positive for COVID-19 in the absence of other symptoms.

While they acknowledge their evidence is anecdotal, they still proposed that the symptom, in the absence of other respiratory diseases, be added to the COVID-19 screening list, and should warrant serious consideration for self-isolation and testing.

According to Forbes, a professor of infectious diseases in the University of Milan also found that many COVID-19 patients presented with anosmia later in the course of infection.

However, studies have not yet been done to confirm these observed data because healthcare professionals have been overwhelmed by the pandemic.

A doctor treating a ward of patients lying in camping beds in Italy; it was reported that health service has been stretched to the limit in the country.

Image via France24

Nevertheless, the UK ENT specialists urged health authorities to advise people with a sudden loss of smell or taste to self-isolate even if they have no other symptoms

"Anything we can do to delay transmission is absolutely vital," said Professor Claire Hopkins, one of the ENT specialists and president of the British Rhinological Society, reported New Straits Times.

"We might be able to reduce the number of otherwise asymptomatic individuals who continue to act as vectors, not realising the need to self-isolate."

The feature is important also because it might help alert healthcare personnel to employ protective equipment when dealing with these potentially COVID-19 positive patients.

Despite the international recognition and medical reports, the Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) has marked the information as fake news

In a statement released today, 25 March, the National Security Council announced that the MOH has denied that loss of sense of smell is a new COVID-19 symptom.

According to Stat News, the World Health Organisation announced on Monday, 23 March, that they are probing into the issue, but they also first said the evidence of a potential connection between anosmia and the novel coronavirus remains preliminary.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced today that the Movement Control Order (MCO) will be extended until 14 April:

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