Doctors worldwide are sounding the alarm: Otherwise asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 often lose their sense of smell or taste and are likely spreading the virus. “This is a sign of infection and anyone who develops loss of sense of smell should self-isolate,” Claire Hopkins, the president of the British Rhinological Society, told The New York Times. “It could contribute to slowing transmission and save lives.”
Over the weekend, a number of medical groups released statements. The American Academy of Otolaryngology posted on its website that lost smell, as well as distorted smell and taste, are being commonly seen in otherwise healthy COVID-19 patients. The Academy informed doctors that when present in the absence of other obvious causes, such as allergies or sinusitis, these symptoms indicate possible “Covid-19 infection and warrant serious consideration for self-isolation and testing of these individuals.”
Italian and South Korean doctors have reported widely seeing loss of smell and taste among otherwise asymptomatic family members of hospitalized patients.
The official lingo is hyposmia, decreased sense of smell, and dysgeusia, a distorted sense of taste. (Anosmia and ageusia are the full loss of smell and taste, respectively.) The British Rhinological Society calls for people with these symptoms to immediately self-isolate for seven days.