The U.K. government has now added the loss of taste and smell (anosmia) to the list of coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms for which seven days of self-isolation is necessary. While it has been widely believed to be a symptom of the virus for at least two months, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) cites it, until now, the U.K. had specified only a fever and a persistent cough as the surest, scientifically proven signs of infection — and enough to direct home quarantine for those displaying them.
BBC News reports that ear, nose, and throat doctors had been urging the government to include anosmia among the list of COVID-19 symptoms for weeks; the guidance has been updated at the suggestion of scientific advisors.
It appears the change in advice has been prompted by new research from King’s College London, which has looked at symptom data from 1.5 million Britons who believed they had coronavirus through an app it created earlier in the pandemic. The Guardian reports that Professor Tim Spector, who led the research at King’s, believes that 50,000 to 70,000 people in the U.K. with COVID-19 “were wrongly not being told to self-isolate.”
He added that the research had resulted in “about 14 symptoms which we know are related to having a positive swab test, and these are not being picked up by the NHS.” Loss of taste and smell chief among them.
The new guidance means that even if the only symptom displaying is loss of smell and taste, that person must self-isolate, whereas before it was merely considered a potential indicator of infection, such was its frequency as a symptom in the common cold. Showing signs of anosmia will now also justify an NHS test for COVID-19.