Health May 18, 2020
Government includes ‘loss of smell’ as Covid-19 symptom

By Francesco Tamilia - Accountable Care Journal

The UK Government has today announced that all individuals who develop a continuous cough, fever or a change in 'normal sense of smell' should self-isolate.

The UK has joined the United States, Europe and the World Health Organisation (WHO) by including the loss of smell or taste as an officially recognised symptom of Covid-19. This development is thanks in part to an international research project involving Professor Carl Philpott at the University of East Anglia.

Led by an international delegation, the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research (GCCR) survey was launched in response to anecdotal reports of smell and taste loss in people who have tested positive for Covid-19. Anosmia – the inability to smell – can also affect the sense of taste as the two are closely linked.

Commenting on the Government’s announcement, Professor Philpott said: “We are collecting data on Covid-19 from people in 50 countries all around the world – and it all points to the fact that smell loss is a symptom. We have found that it particularly affects some demographics, such as women in their 30s and 40s.

“This is different to what we would normally see when people present with anosmia following a virus - that tends to be people who are in an older age group, more commonly in their 60s and 70s. Our research and that from many other centres shows that for some, it can be the only symptom, or accompanied by or precede other mild symptoms,” he added.

Deputy officer Jonathan Van-Tam said during a media briefing in Downing Street that understanding whether anosmia is a symptom has been a “difficult piece of science”.


The WHO says, along with the most common symptoms of fever, cough and tiredness, people may experience:

  • aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • diarrhoea
  • conjunctivitis (red eye)
  • headache
  • loss of taste or smell
  • a rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes

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