Mar 25, 2020 7:00 AM

Loss of smell, taste, might signal pandemic virus infection

Posted Mar 25, 2020 7:00 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — A loss of smell or taste might be an early sign of infection with the pandemic virus, say medical experts who cite reports from several countries.

It might even serve as a useful screening tool, they say.

The idea of a virus infection reducing sense of smell is not new. Respiratory viral infection is a common cause of loss of smell, because inflammation can interfere with airflow and the ability to detect odors. The sense of smell usually returns when the infection resolves, but in a small percentage of cases, smell loss can persist after other symptoms disappear. In some cases, it is permanent.

Now, there’s “good evidence” from South Korea, China and Italy for loss or impairment of smell in infected people, says a joint statement from the presidents of the British Rhinological Society and of ENT UK, a British group that represents ear, nose and throat doctors. In South Korea, some 30% of people who tested positive for the virus have cited loss of smell as their major complaint in otherwise mild cases, they wrote.

So that might be useful as a way to spot infected people without other symptoms — fever, coughing and shortness of breath — of the new coronavirus, they wrote.

A similar proposal was published Sunday by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. It noted “rapidly accumulating” anecdotal evidence from around the world that the pandemic virus can cause not only loss of smell but also a diminished sense of taste. So the appearance of those symptoms in people without another explanation should alert doctors to the possibility of a COVID-19 infection, the group said.

Maria Van Kerkhove, an outbreak expert at the World Health Organization, told reporters Monday that the U.N. health agency is looking into the question of whether the loss of smell or taste are a defining feature of the disease.

Dr. Eric Holbrook, an expert on nasal and sinus disease at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear hospital in Boston, said the reports have been a hot topic among researchers and doctors. But “we don’t have hard evidence right now” about how often smell loss occurs in people infected with the pandemic virus, he said in an interview Monday.

Holbrook said the reports he has seen suggest the sense of smell returns within a couple weeks, but how long it lasts has yet to be firmly established.

He also said it’s difficult to assess reports of a loss of taste because people with an impaired sense of smell often report a loss of flavor, which is technically different from an impairment in taste.

Holbrook said he is trying to set up a study of smell in people being tested for the coronavirus at Boston-area hospitals.

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Mar 25, 2020 7:00 AM
Businesses take the safety pledge at Help Stop the Spread site
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Click here to visit the website.

At Eagle Radio of Hays, we are committed not only to serving our listening and online audiences, but also helping our business partners and advertisers during this difficult time. 

Already, in this time of social distancing, we see businesses across the area working hard to take care of their employees and customers by creating a safe shopping, dining or service environment. Getting the message of those efforts out to the public not only helps to protect businesses but assists in instilling a sense of confidence and calm to the community in the face of the serious situation we face.

“Across each of our markets in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri we at Eagle Communications pledge to help our communities to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. Local businesses want you to know they are taking the necessary measures to provide a safe place where you can shop, dine out, and support your local community during this difficult time,” said Kurt David, president and CEO of Eagle Communications. “Go to helpstopthespread.org for a list of local businesses who have taken the pledge to help stop the spread.”

To help “get the word out” about local businesses, Eagle Radio of Hays is offering a free directory of businesses that “Take the Pledge to Stop the Spread” by following the simple guidelines put forth by the World Health Organization.

Businesses in each of our markets pledge to keep the following standards of safety:

1.  Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic.

2.  Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors and customers.

3. Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace.

4. Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business trips.

5. Brief employees, contractors and customers that if COVID-19 starts spreading in your community anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (100.4 degrees or higher) needs to stay at home. They should also stay home (or work from home) if they have had to take simple medications, such as paracetamol/acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, which may mask symptoms of infection.

Visit www.helpstopthespread.org to access a list of businesses who have taken the pledge. To have your business added to the free listing, contact your Eagle Radio of Hays representative or call (785) 301-2211.