New Delhi (Tisha Bhatia): A lost sense of smell, known medically as anosmia, is increasingly being noted as a symptom of the coronavirus. This is not surprising, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, which says that “viral infections are a leading cause of loss of sense of smell, and COVID-19 is caused by a virus.”
“Physicians talk about the five taste sensations,” he says, meaning the sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami tastes recorded by taste buds in the mouth. Viruses don’t typically affect those senses directly. “Losing sense of taste is from a completely different nerve system, a different disease process,” says Han, who doesn’t see how coronavirus would affect taste directly, but researchers are looking into it.
Munger says that if you suddenly feel like you can’t smell or taste, you should act as though you are infected with coronavirus: Self-isolate and immediately call your physician, or one of the various hotlines set up for reporting COVID-19.
According to Munger, scientists and clinicians around the world who study smell and taste are working together to fast-track data collection on this symptom of COVID-19 and to develop tests patients can do at home.
“It’s important that we quickly get real data measuring sense of smell in people with COVID, so we can understand how common a symptom this might be,” he said. “If it’s common enough, then we could use it as part of screening protocol. Like fever or cough or other symptoms that are not unique to COVID, smell loss could be incorporated in screening patients from a safe distance.”