Loss of Sense of Smell Could Be Symptom of Coronavirus Infection

Mounting evidence from medical groups and patients shows that lost or decreased sense of smell could be an early symptom of COVID-19 infection

Loss of Sense of Smell Could Be Symptom of Coronavirus Infection
For wine lovers, a good sense of smell is crucial. (istockphotos)
Mar 25, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, growing evidence from several countries is showing that anosmia, a partial or complete loss of sense of smell, may be a symptom of COVID-19 infection.

"Upper respiratory tract viruses are quite well-known in causing loss of sense of smell," Dr. Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society and ear nose and throat (ENT) expert, told Wine Spectator. "Coronaviruses in particular are known to damage the olfactory nerves and invade the olfactory pathway to the olfactory bulb, inside the intracranial cavity."

A joint statement from ENT UK, a professional membership body representing ear, nose and throat doctors in Britain, and the British Rhinological Society mentioned that Germany reported that more than two in three confirmed cases of COVID-19 suffer from anosmia. "In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30 percent of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases," the statement continued.

It's not just medical groups that are touting smell blindness as a growing concern. People with the virus are too. Rudy Gobert, the first NBA player to test positive for the virus, took to Twitter on Sunday and updated the world by saying that he hasn't been able to smell or taste anything for the past four days. The American Academy of Otolaryngology released a statement that same day, urging anyone who experiences this symptom to give serious consideration to self-isolation and testing.


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When Dr. Hopkins started out in the field, she says she kept jars of coffee, cloves and strong mint to test patients' sense of smell. She believes wine is just as good when it comes to testing olfactory senses at home, and possibly detecting early onset of the virus.

Although losing the ability to taste wine could be an unfortunate symptom, wine lovers shouldn't worry about it becoming permanent. Dr. Hopkins says the symptom is temporary.

"Fortunately the olfactory apparatus can recover," she said. "We are already hearing encouraging reports that many patients are noticing improvement within two weeks despite the majority having very severe loss at onset."

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