There have been increasing numbers of people reporting a lost sense of smell and taste on social media.
Some have tested positive for the new coronavirus, while others who haven’t had a test wonder if the symptoms could be another common sign of it.
Ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists in the UK have also noticed the rising reports of anosmia – the term for loss of smell – amid the pandemic.
It’s no surprise that this would happen – viruses behind the common cold often cause us to lose our sense of smell and/or taste too.
But the specialists say it should be added to the list of symptoms for triggering self-isolation – especially in the absence of any other symptoms.
The move could “reduce the number of otherwise asymptomatic individuals who continue to act as vectors, not realising the need to self-isolate”, says the doctors’ body ENT UK.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology agrees that the symptoms should alert doctors to screen patients for the virus.
And with ear, nose and throat surgeons currently experiencing higher rates of infection compared to other healthcare workers, there could be a link.
In Germany, specialists note that more than two-thirds of coronavirus cases experienced anosmia.
In South Korea, 30% of patients who tested positive said a lost sense of smell was their main symptom if their other symptoms were only mild.
However, the evidence at present is all anecdotal and has not been confirmed by research.
The main symptoms of coronavirus continue to be a high temperature and a new, continuous cough, which means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours.