In a new study from the University of Quebec, researchers found that people with COVID-19 may lose their sense of smell and taste for up to five months after infection.
While COVID-19 is a new disease, previous research shows that most people lose their sense of smell and taste in the early stages of the illness.
In the study, the team examined 813 health care workers who tested positive for COVID-19.
Each person completed an online questionnaire and home test to evaluate their sense of taste and smell on average five months after diagnosis.
They rated their senses of taste and smell on a scale from 0 to 10. Zero meant no sense at all, and 10 meant a strong sense of taste or smell.
Researchers found the average person did not regain their sense of smell entirely.
A total of 580 people lost their sense of smell during the initial illness.
Of this group, 297 participants, or 51%, said they still had not regained their sense of smell five months later, while 134 participants, or 17%, had a persistent loss of smell when evaluated with the home test.
On average, people ranked their sense of smell at a seven out of 10 after the illness, compared with a nine out of 10 before they had gotten sick.
A total of 527 participants lost their sense of taste during the initial illness. Of this group 200 people, or 38%, said they still had not regained their sense of taste five months later, while 73 people, or 9%, had a persistent loss of taste when evaluated with the home test.
On average, people ranked their sense of taste at an eight out of 10 after the illness, compared with a nine out of 10 before they had gotten sick.
The results suggest that an impaired sense of smell and taste may persist in a number of people with COVID-19.
This emphasizes the importance of following up with people who have been infected, and the need for further research to discover the extent of neurological problems associated with COVID-19.
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The study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 73rd Annual Meeting. One author of the study is Johannes Frasnelli, M.D.
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