A loss of smell and taste may be the early symptom of COVID-19 infection, according to a latest report by a leading American professional association of medical specialists.
Currently, there have been reports of taste and smell disorders related to COVID-19 from multiple countries around the world as well as within the US, said James C Denneny III, MD, executive vice president and CEO of the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS).
In light of the reports of these symptoms, AAO-HNS has proposed adding loss of smell and taste anosmia and dysgeusia to the list of available screening tools for COVID-19 infection.
Denneny told Healio Primary Care — which provides daily internal medicine and primary care news — that typical causes for loss of smell are allergies, sinus infections or a common cold, and if loss of smell occurs without the presence of any of these conditions, “this symptom may be an additional identifier for COVID-19-infected patients who may require testing and/or self-isolation”.
However, he explained that the timing of the onset of these symptoms has varied, with some patients with COVID-19 reporting loss of smell or taste as one of their initial symptoms, and others reporting that these symptoms developed later in their illness.
“There is clearly work to be done in compiling the data from around the world to measure frequency, as well as relationship to the disease itself. Until that is fully established, it makes sense to use this as a potential additional identifier of patients having the virus,” he said.
To collect more data on these symptoms in COVID-19, the AAO-HNS Infectious Disease and Patient Safety Quality Improvement Committees developed the COVID-19 Anosmia Reporting Tool for Clinicians. Using this tool, healthcare providers of all specialties can confidentially report loss of smell and taste related to COVID-19.
The tool assesses whether the source of COVID-19 infection is identifiable, risk factors for infections, onset of anosmia and dysgeusia and what other symptoms started at the same time as anosmia and dysgeusia.
“The value of adding unexplained anosmia as a potential official symptom of COVID-19… would allow earlier detection and isolation of potential carriers and improve safety for healthcare workers,” Denneny added.