UK doctors: Loss of smell, taste may be key early symptom of COVID-19

Published: Mar. 24, 2020 at 1:40 PM EDT
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There's growing concern among health officials about so called silent spreaders, people who are infected with the coronavirus, but aren't sick. Now some UK doctors say there may be a clue to who's carrying it, and they want it added to the list of symptoms.

No one knows the symptoms of coronavirus better than those who are living with it -- Like 39-year-old Tara Langston, who's in intensive care in London.

But while people have been asked to watch for a fever, cough, and body aches, doctors in the UK say there's something else to look out for.

"Many of us across the globe in areas with rising rate of COVID-19 are seeing a big spike in patients who are otherwise completely fit and well, often under 40, presenting with relatively sudden onset and complete loss of smell and taste," said Claire Hopkins, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at London Bridge Hospital.

She say ENT doctors worldwide have reported more patients with the condition over the last few weeks. Doctors caution these symptoms can be common with other viruses too, and in the majority of cases, both senses should come back on their own.

Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert was the first NBA player confirmed to have COVID-19. He tweeted he hadn't been able to smell anything for four days. And a British health minister who also tested positive says she lost 100 percent of her taste and smell.

Doctors hope these possible clues to help diagnose COVID-19 will encourage more people to self isolate. "I do believe it has the potential to make a difference," Hopkins said.

A new marker that health experts hope may help slow the spread.