TEAM: A loss of taste and smell: the new coronavirus symptom?

"In the last 48 hours, or perhaps 72, we have heard from about 500 patients who have lost their sense of smell", says Dr. Nirmal Kumar, the president of ENTUK, a group of British ear, nose and throat specialists. Our twins are fantastically committed, enthusiastic health research participants who have already been studied in unprecedented detail, putting us in a unique position to provide vital answers to support the global fight against COVID-19. But the main symptoms to look out for, listed by the nHS, are a high temperature and a new, continuous cough.

If you do lose your sense of smell you need to be careful as you could miss warning signs for things like leaking gas or fires.

Kumar and other doctors are urging authorities globally to add a loss of sense of smell to the list of symptoms that would trigger stay-at-home requirements.

Those reports are among a growing amount of anecdotal evidence that suggests experts might want to consider anosmia as a potential sign of infection.

Doctors in countries where COVID-19 has spread have reported that some people whose only apparent symptom is a loss of smell may not have been tested for the virus and could unwittingly be spreading it.

The free Covid Symptom Tracker app asks users to fill in data including age, sex and postcode as well as questions on existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes and whether users take drugs such as immunosuppressants or ibuprofen or use wheelchairs. "Many patients reporting this have mild [COVID-19] symptoms, sometimes a little bit of cough and sometimes a fever, but there are patients who are not reporting any other symptoms", he says.

Reports of anosmia appearing as a possible symptom of coronavirus have reverberated online in recent days.

With over 6.600 confirmed cases and 300 deaths, the coronavirus outbreak is moving fast in the United Kingdom, now under lockdown for three weeks by government orders. But some health care workers are encouraging their peers to consider the symptom when caring for patients they suspect might have be infected.

"I think these patients may be some of the hitherto hidden carriers that have facilitated the rapid spread of Covid-19", the statement said, adding that "Unfortunately, these patients do not meet current criteria for testing or self isolation". Ignoring a lost sense of smell, however, could mean doctors don't detect infection in cases where patients have only mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

Loss of smell is still only anecdotally verified as a COVID-19 symptom, and it is not known how common it is across all confirmed cases. Speaking to STATNews, rhinologist Eric Holbrook says this new observation should not be used as a single screening factor, but rather it can be incorporated into broader considerations when evaluating potentially infected patients.

To a lesser extent, changes to the sense of taste have also been reported in coronavirus patients.

"But anything that gives us a heads-up into who needs to be isolated or tested, that might be a good screening tool", Holbrook said.

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.

"Perhaps the most important real estate in the nasal cavity sits in the roof of the nasal cavity", Professor Friedland said, "just between our eyes". "Many of us are trying to start doing those studies", Holbrook said.