Medical experts in countries hit by COVID-19 are reporting the first tell-tale signs of the virus may be in an unexpected loss in smell.
Since the virus causes swelling of the olfactory mucosa in the upper section of the nasal cavity, more than other virus, ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeons say loss of smell could be used as a key clinical indicator in otherwise symptom-free carriers of COVID-19.
“It is these ‘silent carriers’ who may remain undetected by current screening procedures, which may explain why the disease has progressed so rapidly in so many countries around the world,” says South Australian specialist Flinders University Professor Simon Carney, from the Southern ENT and Adelaide Sinus Centre.
“While further research is required, loss of smell, or anosmia, has been reported in as many as 1 in 3 patients in South Korea and, in Germany, this figure was as high as 2 in patients,” says Professor of Otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) at Flinders University.
An ENT professor in London has reporting seeing a dramatic increase in patients with loss of smell as their only symptom of infection with the virus. It is for this reason that ENT surgeons in the UK are pushing to have this symptom highlighted as an important symptom that may signify that a patient is a carrier. Being able to identify carriers of the virus who otherwise don’t show any symptoms, could be hugely beneficial in helping to slow the spread.
“Australia is in a position to take advantage of these findings overseas to try and ‘flatten the curve’ while we still can.” explains Professor Carney, immediate past president of the Australia and New Zealand Rhinologic Society.
“Doctors and COVID-19 detection centres could use this subtle sign and unexplained sudden anosmia the testing criteria,” he says.
If you experience an unexpected loss of smell, consider calling your GP ,with this possible early symptom.