Does COVID-19 Cause a Loss of Smell?

Is loss of smell a symptom of COVID-19?

Although it’s not part of every COVID-19 diagnosis, some patients are reporting the loss of smell as a symptom of the virus, according to Ear, Nose and Throat physicians the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

In Germany, for example, two out of three verified COVID-19 cases have confirmed anosmia or hyposmia, terms used to describe the loss of smell or a reduction of smell sensitivity, respectfully, writes Dr. Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society and a professor of Rhinology, King’s College London.

In an open letter to other physicians, she notes: “In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30 percent of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases,” Dr. Hopkins says.

Loss of smell is not uncommon in viral infections, which account for 40 percent of cases of anosmia. And the increase in reports of loss of smell may not be caused by COVID-19, Hopkins writes.

“I have personally seen four patients this week, all under 40, and otherwise asymptomatic except for the recent onset of anosmia – I usually see roughly no more than one a month,” Hopkins writes. “The apparent increase in incidence could merely reflect the attention COVID-19 has attracted in the media, and that such cases may be caused by typical rhinovirus and coronavirus strains.” 

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