Loss of smell and taste should be added as official coronavirus symptom, docs say – The SunMarch 26, 2020
LOSS of smell and taste should be added to the government's list of official coronavirus symptoms, docs say
Currently, the NHS says the main symptoms of Covid-19 are a high temperature and a new, continuous cough.
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However, specialist nose and throat doctors are now urging ministers to recognise loss of smell and taste as an official sign of the deadly illness – which has killed 468 people in the UK.
The British Association of Otorhinolaryngology (ENT UK), which represents ear, nose and throat experts around the country, say they have seen a 'significant' number of patients suffering from these effects of Covid-19.
ENT UK say medics across the world have reported rising numbers of people in the past month saying they have anosmia – the technical term for a lost sense of smell.
In particular, they revealed at least two thirds of Covid-19 patients in Germany reported losing one or both senses, and it often happened to people with less obvious illness.
The organisation said: "We believe this is related to Covid-19 infection.
"At present, many affected patients do not have other symptoms, or only mild disease, and therefore do not meet the criteria for testing.
"While loss of smell may be caused by other viruses, we think that it is reasonable to assume that COVID-19 is the cause until tests prove negative.
"We therefore advise that patients follow current guidelines for self-isolating if they develop new onset anosmia. This will also apply to cohabiting friends or family."
Currently, the NHS is urging people in the UK not to leave their homes if they have a persistent cough, or a high temperature, or both, or if somebody in their family does.
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Despite this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) say it is investigating the link between loss of smell and taste and Covid-19.
Maria Van Kerkhove, the head of the WHO's emerging diseases and zoonoses unit, said on Monday: "A loss of smell or a loss of taste is something that we're looking into.
"We are reaching out to a number of countries and looking at the cases that have already been reported to see if this is a common feature. We don't have the answer to that yet."
ENT UK said viral infections are the second most common reason for people to close their sense of smell – with the most common simply being a blocked nose.
It added: "There is growing evidence that significant numbers of patients with proven Covid-19 infection have developed anosmia/hyposmia (reduced sense of smell).
"For example, in Germany it is reported that more than two in three confirmed cases have anosmia."
The organisation say they have told Public Health England about the apparent link.
It comes after US scientists claimed that those with Covid-19 might also experience a tummy ache when they have the deadly bug.
A new study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, suggests people might experience digestive issues, such as diarrhoea, when they are infected with coronavirus.
Despite this revelation, people should still be vigilant in looking out for the primary symptoms of coronavirus including a dry cough and high temperature – as Covid-19 primarily attacks the lungs and respiratory system.
Some patients may also have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose or a sore throat – but these are usually mild and begin gradually.
Developing these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have the illness and they are similar to other illnesses, such as the common cold or flu.
Some people will not develop all of these symptoms – and some might not even show symptoms at all, experts say.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK's chief scientific adviser, said: "It looks quite likely that there is some degree of asymptomatic transmission.
"There’s definitely quite a lot of transmission very early in the disease when there are very mild symptoms."
Around one out of every six who gets Covid-19 become seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are at most risk developing serious illness.
This can include pneumonia and swelling in the lungs, which can make it hard for the lungs to pass oxygen into the bloodstream – leading to organ failure and death.
Severe pneumonia can kill people by causing them to "drown" in the fluid flooding their lungs.
People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention, the WHO says.
The virus is believed to be transmitted between people through droplets spread from coughing and touching or shaking hands.
While sneezing is not a symptom of the new coronavirus, it's also thought to be a way that droplets can be spread.
Symptoms are thought to appear between two and 11 days.
New research has found that the average incubation period of Covid-19 is 5.1 days.
A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US found that almost all (97.5 per cent) of those who develop symptoms appeared to do so within 11.5 days of infection.
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