A charity supporting patients who have lost their sense of smell and taste says the government must not ignore a rush of new cases which could be “markers” of COVID-19.
AbScent says it has been inundated with messages of concern from primarily young people who have suddenly developed anosmia – the loss of smell – but otherwise have no coronavirus symptoms.
Professor Barry Smith – who is a member of Abscent’s advisory board and the Director of the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study – said: “There has been a huge increase in the number of people reporting a sudden loss of smell and we need to know if this is a marker for coronavirus even among asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers, who may need to self-isolate to avoid spreading the virus.”
Over the last few weeks the UK media has been reporting cases of well-known people whose senses have been affected. They include the Health Minister Nadine Dorries, TV football presenter Gary Lineker’s 28-year-old son George and Dancing on Ice skater Matt Evers.
AbScent, which is based in Andover in Hampshire, is sharing its data with two leading Ear, Nose and Throat specialists. The resulting study is due to be published in a leading medical journal soon.
One of the specialists is ENT Professor Claire Hopkins at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London. She said: “During the COVID19 pandemic there has been a significant increase in the number of patients, particularly in younger age groups, presenting with new onset loss of smell. While the focus of the NHS has been managing those patients with severe respiratory disease, many of these patients have been left without access to information or support. Patient support groups, such as AbScent, are an invaluable resource for patients with what, until now, has been a largely neglected condition.”
Professor Hopkins’ co-author is Simon Gane, an ENT surgeon at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital in London and an AbScent trustee.
“AbScent strives to be a source of reliable information about patient experience. These patient stories can tell us things about the development of the syndrome that simple questionnaires cannot. As this disease unfolds in the UK and other countries, these patient reports have been invaluable in understanding its progress and presentation,” he said.
AbScent was founded in 2012 by Chrissi Kelly, a post-viral anosmic. “I started the charity to support patients like me,” she said. “As well as providing help, we have campaigned for anosmia to be better understood as the life-changing condition it really is.
“There is growing and strong evidence of a link between a loss of smell and taste and COVID-19. We are concerned that this is not being addressed urgently enough – perhaps because the better-known symptoms of coronavirus are not showing up – and, without isolating these people, this is of course how the virus will continue to spread.”
For more information about AbScent go to its website https://abscent.org/