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Loss of smell and taste an early indication of Covid-19

Picture: Freepik

Picture: Freepik

Published Nov 15, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - An international team of researchers discovers that individuals that reported a loss of smell and taste provided earlier markers for the spread of Covid-19.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that self-reports of smell and taste changes were earlier markers of the spread of Covid-19 than other commonly believed indicators and reported a decrease in self-reports of new smell and taste changes as early as 5 days after lockdown enforcements.

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"In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many governments have taken drastic measures to prevent their intensive care units from becoming overwhelmed with patients," said study author John Hayes from Penn State University in the US. "Our research suggests that an increase in the incidence of sudden smell and taste change in the general population may indicate that Covid-19 is spreading."

The researchers made use of data provided from the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research survey which is a global online study in more than 35 languages as well as compared data from France, Italy and the UK that implemented national lockdowns at different stages and with varying severity and analysed self-reports of loss of smell or taste.

The researchers found that immediately after lockdown, two of the countries with the higher lockdown severity experienced a significant decline in both self-reported smell and taste changes and Covid-19 symptoms while the UK showed a slower decrease with the researchers presuming it to be due to less severe lockdown prohibitions.

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Immediately after lockdown, we found that the two countries with the higher stringency index experienced a more rapid decrease in both self-reported smell and taste changes and COVID-19 symptoms.

"We propose that an increase in the incidence of sudden smell and taste change in the general population may be used as an indicator of COVID-19 spread in the population."

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