- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2020

Individuals who’ve lost their ability to smell but don’t show any other symptoms could be “hidden carriers” of COVID-19, according to rhinologists from the United Kingdom.

A significant number of patients in South Korea, China and Italy with confirmed coronavirus infections developed anosmia, loss of smell, and hyposmia, a reduced sense of smell, says a statement released Saturday by Dr. Claire Hopkins of the British Rhinological Society and Dr. Nirmal Kumar of ENT UK.

In South Korea, 30% of patients diagnosed with the coronavirus experienced loss of smell as a presenting symptom in mild cases. More than 2 in 3 infected patients in Germany reported anosmia.

The doctors also said there has been a rapidly growing number of reports of patients experiencing loss of smell without exhibiting other symptoms, including in Iran, U.S., France and Northern Italy, which have reported sudden increases in cases of isolated anosmia.

However, these patients do not meet the criteria for testing or self isolation, the rhinologists noted.

“While there is a chance 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, it could potentially be used as a screening tool to help identify otherwise asymptomatic patients, who could then be better instructed on self-isolation.”

Dr. Hopkins and Dr. Kumar recommended any adults with anosmia but no other symptoms self isolate for seven days to possibly reduce the number of otherwise asymptomatic individuals who can spread the respiratory disease.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath and could take 2-14 days to appear. In severe cases, sick patients could experience pneumonia and organ failure.

Viruses that give rise to the common cold can cause post-infectious loss of smell. Other coronaviruses are thought to make up 10% to 15% of anosmia cases, according to the two UK rhinologists.

COVID-19 has sickened more than 367,000 people and killed more than 16,000 worldwide as of Monday, a Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker shows.

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