Loss of taste and smell added to official coronavirus symptoms list


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Loss of taste and smell are being added to the official list of symptoms for COVID-19.
Medically known as anosmia, this will now be included in the government’s definition of what patients may experience when suffering with coronavirus.
The advice now says people should isolate if they have a new continuous cough, or fever, or anosmia.
The symptoms of loss of smell and taste have been reported in many patients for several weeks.
Some countries, including the US, have already added the symptom to help clinicians spot potential patients.
Since March, government advisers on new viruses at the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), have been monitoring anosmia and other potential symptoms.
They recently concluded anosmia should be added to the list.
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam explained the change, saying it was important to “introduce it at the right time when we think it’s going to make a difference moving forwards to how we pick up cases”.
Professor Van-Tam, who has been advising the government on COVID-19, said adding the symptoms means 2% more cases could be picked up.
Research suggests anywhere between 13% to more than half of COVID-19 patients experience anosmia.
But Professor Van-Tam refused to be drawn on the numbers, describing the data as “quite variable”.
There have been reports that loss of smell and taste is more frequent in women, but Professor Van-Tam said: “We aren’t in a position where we can be clear on that.”
The list of symptoms for coronavirus patients is long, with some patients experiencing fatigue, abdominal pain or diarrhoea.
Earlier this month, a new study identified five skin conditions dermatologists have associated with coronavirus.
According to the study, 19% of cases involved chilblain-like symptoms, described as “acral areas of erythema-edema with some vesicles or pustules”.
But authors of the study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, warned that in some cases it was hard to tell if skin conditions were directly caused by coronavirus or if they indicated complications.
They also urged the public not to try to self-diagnose COVID-19 based on skin symptoms, because rashes and lesions are common and hard to differentiate without medical expertise.
Professor Van-Tam said when considering which symptoms would improve pick-up of cases, “we are looking for things that are not so common and non-specific that they would cause more confusion than clarity”.
The government has been criticised by some experts for not adding anosmia to the list of official symptoms sooner.
Research shared earlier this month from Berlin’s Charite Universitatsmedizin found COVID-19 patients may be at their most infectious during the first week of symptoms as they shed the virus at higher levels.
Scotland has said it is expanding testing to cover the newly official symptom, and will now offer tests to anyone with symptoms over the age of five.
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