This symptom could be the first sign of COVID-19

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In a new study, researchers suggest that the first tell-tale signs of the coronavirus may be in an unexpected loss of smell.

Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeons say the loss of smell—as the virus causes swelling in the olfactory mucosa more than other viruses—could be used as a key clinical indicator in otherwise symptom-free carriers of COVID-19.

The research was conducted by a team at Flinders University in Australia.

According to the team, it is these ‘silent carriers’ who may remain undetected by current screening procedures, which may explain why the disease has progressed so rapidly in so many countries around the world.

While further research is required, loss of smell, or anosmia, has been reported in as many as one in three patients in South Korea and, in Germany, this figure was as high as two in three patients.

An ENT professor in London has reported seeing a dramatic increase in patients with anosmia as their only symptom of COVID-19 infection.

As Australia struggles to contain the spread of COVID-10, the identification of these carriers could help to slow the spread of infection.

The team says in the UK, ENT surgeons are pushing to have anosmia highlighted as an important symptom that may signify a patient may be an asymptomatic carrier.

Australia is in a position to take advantage of these findings overseas to try and ‘flatten the curve’ while scientists still can.

The researchers suggest that doctors and COVID-19 detection centers could use this subtle sign and unexplained sudden anosmia the testing criteria.

Patients should also consider calling their GP with this early symptom as a precursor for possible treatment.

One researcher of the study is South Australian specialist Flinders University Professor Simon Carney, from the Southern ENT and Adelaide Sinus Centre.

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