• Loss of smell could re­veal hid­den virus cases

Kuwait Times - - Front Page - PARIS:

From a mother un­able to smell her baby’s nappy to a law­maker who sud­denly could not taste food, some coro­n­avirus pa­tients have de­scribed a loss of ol­fac­tory senses - and ex­perts say this might be a new way to de­tect the virus. Ear, nose and throat (ENT) spe­cial­ists in

Bri­tain, the United States and France have noted a grow­ing num­ber of pa­tients in re­cent weeks with anos­mia the abrupt loss of smell - and have said this could be a sign of COVID-19 in peo­ple who oth­er­wise ap­pear well.

Of­fi­cial fig­ures sug­gest the coro­n­avirus has in­fected some 380,000 peo­ple as the pan­demic pro­lif­er­ates around the world, but with many cases go­ing un­de­tected ex­perts have be­come con­cerned about the po­ten­tial for peo­ple without symp­toms to spread the virus. The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion lists the most com­mon signs of COVID-19 as fever, tired­ness and dry cough.

In Bri­tain, ENT doc­tors have 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,” Claire Hop­kins, the pres­i­dent of the Bri­tish Rhi­no­log­i­cal So­ci­ety, told AFP. Hop­kins, who pub­lished an open let­ter on the is­sue on Fri­day with ENT UK chief Nirmal Ku­mar, said she was not sur­prised when she heard ini­tial re­ports from Iran and France of COVID-19 pa­tients re­port­ing a loss of smell.

Around 40 per­cent of cases of sud­den loss of smell in adults are caused by post-vi­ral anos­mia, she said, and pre­vi­ously known coron­aviruses are thought to ac­count for up to 15 per­cent. But she said the turn­ing point came when an Ital­ian col­league work­ing in a hospi­tal in the worst-hit north of the coun­try men­tioned he had ob­served a high in­ci­dence of loss of smell among front­line health work­ers. This led to a flurry of posts on pro­fes­sional mes­sage boards.

“We all started to note an in­crease in pa­tients who were young and oth­er­wise com­pletely asymp­to­matic pre­sent­ing with new on­set sense of smell loss,” said Hop­kins. Nine out of the 20 pa­tients she saw last week had re­cently lost their abil­ity to smell. “That’s ex­tremely un­usual,” she said, ad­ding that sev­eral of these pa­tients had called Bri­tain’s health au­thor­i­ties con­cerned about COVID-19 but were told there was no need to self-iso­late be­cause it was not a rec­og­nized symp­tom.

Ex­perts in sev­eral coun­tries have flagged anos­mia as a po­ten­tial sign of COVID-19. In France the head of the health service, Jerome Salomon, on Fri­day said ENT spe­cial­ists had ob­served a “surge” in anos­mia cases and said while it was still rel­a­tively rare, it had been seen in younger pa­tients with “mild” symp­toms. The Amer­i­can Academy of Oto­laryn­gol­ogy-Head and Neck Surgery on Sun­day noted grow­ing anec­do­tal ev­i­dence that anos­mia and dys­geu­sia - taste dis­or­der - were “sig­nif­i­cant symp­toms” of the virus.

In Germany, vi­rol­o­gist Hen­drik Streeck from the Univer­sity of Bonn, went house to house in Heins­berg, where around 1000 peo­ple were put un­der a two-week quar­an­tine in Fe­bru­ary be­cause of a lo­cal out­break. He said some two thirds of in­fected peo­ple re­ported los­ing their sense of smell and taste for a few days. “It went so far that one mother could no longer smell her child’s full nappy. Oth­ers couldn’t smell their sham­poo any­more and their food started to taste bland,” he told the Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung news­pa­per.

A lack of test­ing in many coun­tries means that of­ten only those with the most se­vere symp­toms are con­firmed to have the virus. But sev­eral high-pro­file pa­tients with milder cases have re­ported a loss of ol­fac­tory senses. Na­dine Dorries, the first Bri­tish politi­cian to test pos­i­tive, said she lost both her sense of smell and taste. “Eat­ing and drink­ing warm or cold that’s all I can tell,” she posted on Twitter last week. French bas­ket­ball player Rudy Gobert, 27, whose pos­i­tive coro­n­avirus test prompted the NBA to shut down its sea­son, tweeted he had not “been able to smell any­thing for the last 4 days” on Sun­day.

— AFP

A pic­ture shows Dubai’s Burj Khal­ifa lit up with a mes­sage “Stay Home” on Tuesday, re­mind­ing peo­ple to stay home amid the coro­n­avirus COVID-19 pan­demic.

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