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Studies strengthen link between loss of smell, taste and COVID-19

Some of those affected by the latest outbreak in Beijing reported the loss of smell or taste. Photo: AP © AP Some of those affected by the latest outbreak in Beijing reported the loss of smell or taste. Photo: AP

A study of patients hit by the recent Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing has highlighted how it affected their sense of taste and smell.

Among the 256 Covid-19 cases in the latest outbreak that started on June 11 in Beijing, 33 people, or 13 per cent, reported that they lost their sense of smell.

Another 21 people, or 8 per cent, said their sense of taste had been affected, Wu Guoan, vice-president of Beijing Ditan Hospital, told a press conference last week.

Losing your sense of smell or taste was already known to be a symptom of the disease, and one international study published this month found 32 per cent of patients in China, 69 per cent of the cases in Germany and 49 per cent in France had reported this phenomenon.

The research published in the journal Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery was based on a study of 394 patients, 239 from China, 39 from Germany and 116 from France.

Across all the countries studied, a total of 41 per cent, or 161 patients, reported a loss of smell or taste.

“Olfactory and/or gustatory dysfunction may represent early or even be the only symptom of Sars-CoV-2 (the virus’s official name) infection in both adults and children.

It continued they “may serve as important screening criteria” for patients who showed few or no other symptoms and had been “missed by other screening measures”.

Researchers recommended that questions relating to changes to taste and smell be added to routine screening measures to help identify these patients before further disease transmission.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US have already said these are symptoms to watch out for.

Lu Hongzhou, from Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre, one of the lead authors of the study, said the discrepancy between the numbers affected in different countries was probably due to different mutations of the virus, or differences in the genetic make-up of the people in different countries, technology news portal Deep Tech reported. 

Other symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, cough, fatigue, throat pains and diarrhoea, but it took some time before the loss of taste and smell was identified as a symptom.

It was generally ignored among patients in Wuhan, where the epidemic was first reported “because at that time, the situation was much more serious than the current condition in Beijing and many people showed life-threatening symptoms like difficulty breathing and extremely high fever,” Wang Guiqiang, director of the infectious disease department at Peking University First Hospital, told news app Red Star News.

He said people need not worry about the loss of smell or taste because these should return as people recover from the disease.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Source: MSN

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