Losing sense of taste and smell may be clearest indication yet of having coronavirus, says study

Losing your sense of taste and smell may be the most reliable symptom of coronavirus, research suggests. 

A study which involved more than 500 Britons who tested positive for the virus found that almost 60 per cent had lost those senses, compared with just 32 per cent who reported suffering from a fever.

Currently, people in the UK are instructed to self-isolate only if they have a persistent cough, a high temperature, or both.

But the study by King’s College London found that 59 per cent those who tested positive for Covid-19 lost their sense of taste or smell, compared with 19 per cent of those who tested negative. 

A similar proportion – 58 per cent – of those who tested positive had said they were suffering from a persistent cough. But 41 per cent of those who were not found to suffer from the virus also reported this symptom.  Meanwhile, just 32 per cent of those who tested positive reported a fever, along with 13 per cent of those who tested negative. 

The findings, which have yet to be peer reviewed, come as the country’s chief medical officer considers designating taste and smell deprivation a symptom of coronavirus.

The World Health Organization last week announced that it is investigating the link.

The current NHS advice puts the UK at odds with France, where people with loss of taste and smell are being advised to consider self-isolating even if they lack a cough or fever. 

Lead researcher Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London 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. 

“This urgent research is only possible thanks to the 1.8 million citizen scientists logging their symptoms every day.”

Separate research suggests one in 10 people in Britain is now exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus.  

The data, based on 25,548 responses on the Evergreen Life health app users, shows that over last weekend 10.4 per cent of respondents reported having symptoms consistent with Covid-19, up from 8.1 per cent the previous weekend.

Research also showed that before lockdown, 53 per cent with symptoms were staying at home and after lockdown 89 per cent with symptoms are reporting they are staying at home – which suggests that one in 10 people are still refusing to stay inside even if they might be infected.

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