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VERIFY: Loss of smell and taste are symptoms of COVID-19

The evidence has been building and new research of U.S. patients makes the strongest connection yet

DALLAS — According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are three symptoms of COVID19: fever, cough and shortness of breath. But we’ve been hearing a lot about loss of sense of smell and taste. Should those be recognized symptoms too?

The anecdotal evidence and a growing body of research suggests there is a correlation but scientifically, the answer has not yet been proven. However, now there's a new study that aims to answer the question.

It's from American Academy of Otolaryngology or Ear, Nose and Throat doctors. Dr. James C. Denneny is the CEO of the Academy. The study will be published Wednesday and Dr. Denneny told WFAA about the findings.

“Can a loss of sense of smell and taste be a symptom of COVID-19?” I asked.

“Yeah, I believe the evidence is quite clear that is true,” he said.

And here's the evidence. 

The Academy has collected data from 237 patients who reported a loss of smell and later tested positive for COVID-19. It found 70% of them reported loss of smell as one of their symptoms before their diagnosis. For 25%, it was their only early symptom.

“So, if that turns out to follow a pattern, it may well be that this is kind of a red flag or trigger that even though they don't have the other major symptoms, these progressed on to get the COVID19 virus positive,” Dr. Denneny said.

These new findings are consistent with other studies around the world, including one from South Korea that found 15% of patients lost their sense of smell or taste. Another in Germany found loss of smell to be common among 100 patients that were interviewed.

In England, their academy of ENT doctors say patients who've lost a sense of smell "should be considered likely to have COVID-19 infection. Patients should be advised to self-isolate."

“I would say this, in addition to several of the others I mentioned, the preponderance of these studies together, this confirms that and has a little more detail then some of the others,” Denneny said.

So, should a loss of sense of smell and taste symptoms be recognized symptoms of COVID-19? Officially, that has not happened. But the evidence suggests they are symptoms and it’s critical that people have them, take appropriate action.

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