Losing your sense of smell and taste could be a symptom of coronavirus

1 April 2020, 15:07

A loss of smell and taste is thought to be the best predictor for coronavirus
A loss of smell and taste is thought to be the best predictor for coronavirus. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A loss of smell and taste could be the best way to tell whether you have contracted coronavirus, researchers have said.

Previously commonly accepted symptoms of Covid-19 were listed as having a fever - with a temperature over 38C, tiredness or fatigue, and a dry cough.

Government guidelines advise people to self-isolate if they have a continuous cough, a high temperature, or both.

Scientists at King's College London have been monitoring and tracking symptoms using a specially-created Covid Symptom Tracker App, which attracted 1.8 million users by 31 March.

People can log their symptoms, or lack thereof, on the app to help researchers gain a better understanding of coronavirus signs.

Almost 60 per cent of the 1.5 million people who were using the app by 29 March and had tested positive for the disease reported a loss of smell and taste, compared to just 18 per cent of those who tested negative.

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Lead researcher Professor Tim Spector from King's College said: "When combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be three times more likely to have contracted Covid-19 according to our data, and should, therefore, self-isolate for seven days to reduce the spread of the disease."

Prof Spector claimed the research was helping his team figure out the location of the virus hotspots in the country.

He added: "(The data) gives us an evolving map of the UK of where symptoms are occurring two to three weeks before a strain on the NHS, which is why it's vital to continue logging your health and symptoms, even when you feel completely healthy, and encourage others to use the app."

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Loss of smell and taste is thought to be a better predictor than a continuous cough
Loss of smell and taste is thought to be a better predictor than a continuous cough. Picture: PA

Researchers behind the app have created a model featuring a combination of the reported symptoms, including loss of smell and taste, fever, persistent cough, fatigue, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.

The team said the loss of smell and taste was the strongest predictor, but symptoms can come in any combination.

Officials at the World Health Organisation (WHO) say other symptoms include shortness of breath, aches, pains and a sore throat.

Last week the WHO's Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said there had been "quite a few" reports of people in the early stages of the disease losing their sense of smell or taste but added: "This is something that we need to look in to, to really capture to see whether this is one of the signs of Covid-19."