I-TEAM: A loss of taste and smell: the new coronavirus symptom?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

(Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA. (WRDW/WAGT) – A fever, coughing and shortness of breath are all symptoms of the coronavirus. However, doctors believe they have found a new one and it could become a key in preventing the spread.

This new symptom is sudden and kind of strange, one that people should be able to notice it right away.

One morning you feel completely fine, having a morning coffee. The next moment, you can't smell or taste anything.

According to doctors, that could be a positive way to know you could have the coronavirus.

And basketball fans might have already heard -- thanks to a tweet from Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.

Our I-Team found another coronavirus patient -- a 26-year-old yoga teacher -- hospitalized in New York that experienced the same symptom.

"I still have no sense of smell. I'm having GI problems. I lost a lot of weight in that first week that I have not been able to put back on,” Fiona Lowenstein, the patient, said.

And in Aiken county -- the father of a toddler with asthma -- who can't get a coronavirus test even with a doctor's order -- can't taste or smell anything, a symptom that just developed today.

Dr. Andrew Wells at Augusta ENT says it's an important symptom to note.

"If you have anosmia -- lack of smell -- and you have no other symptoms, they consider you COVID-19 positive,” Wells said. “And until you're either past quarantine or you're tested and test negative, that's how big the symptom is and how they're taking precautions in France."

While the loss of taste and smell is not an official symptom listed by the World Health Organization the CDC, Dr. Wells believes it’s best to keep an eye on it.

"But what's unique about this is, we're seeing in younger healthier people that have very little symptoms or asymptomatic,” Wells said.

This means it could be a way for silent carriers to realize they could be carrying the virus and they can self-quarantine. It can also be a good sign for doctors and nurses to know early on.

"We need to gown up, we need to get extra personal protective equipment and be much more careful around patients that have that symptom, so it's going to help the healthcare workers too,” Wells said.

The good news is this potential new symptom is temporary.

The bad news, however, it appears things are just getting started in the United States when it comes to understanding the virus.

"At some point during this crisis, we have all not taken it seriously,” Wells said.

But doctors all over the world have been and it's important for the ones at home to learn from their experiences.

"People in my specialty in Iran,” Wells said. “And in South Korea and all these other countries that are, you know, weeks, maybe even a month or two ahead of us are constantly feeding us information."

People who get this symptom are expected to get their senses back in roughly two weeks. However, doctors still say everyone should treat any potential symptom like it’s a positive test, and not infect anyone else.

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