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Coronavirus survey: Lost your sense of smell from COVID-19?

Researchers conducting online survey investigating latest symptom of coronavirus

A woman smells cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. before the coronavirus pandemic kept people indoors.
A woman smells cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. before the coronavirus pandemic kept people indoors. (2016 Getty Images)

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – While fever, cough and shortness of breath have been the most obvious signs, and those that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn to look out for, a recent analysis of milder cases in South Korea found 30 percent of patients experienced a loss of smell. In Germany, more than two in three confirmed cases had anosmia, or a loss of smell, according to the Associated Press.

Researchers are doing studies into whether a rapid onset of losing your sense of smell is another telltale sign of COVID-19.

Leslie Kay, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, is one of 500 clinicians, neurobiologists, data scientists, cognitive scientists, sensory researchers and technicians from 38 countries, who make up the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers (GCCR) to investigate the connection between senses and COVID-19.

They want to hear from anyone who has a confirmed or presumed case of the novel coronavirus and created an online survey on smell loss. Kay urges anyone who has recently experienced smell loss to complete the survey by going to this link: bit.ly/343fERK

(Only take the survey if you have a confirmed or presumed case of COVID-19)

Try the jellybean test

Steve Munger, director of the Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, is also on the leadership team of GCCR. Munger has a test you can do at home to see how your sense of taste and smell is working.

"You take a jellybean in one hand, and with the other hand you hold your nose tightly so you're not getting any air flow," said Munger.

"You put the jellybean in your mouth and chew it. Let's say it's a fruit flavor jellybean: if you get the savory plus the sweetness of the jellybean you'll know you have functional taste," Munger said.

"Then, while still chewing, suddenly release your nose. If you have a sense of smell you'll suddenly get all the odors and you'll say 'Oh! that's a lemon jellybean,' or 'Oh! that's cherry.' It's really a very dramatic, quick, 'Wow' type of response," he explained.

"So if you can go from sweet and sour to the full flavor and know what the flavor is," Munger said, "then your sense of smell is probably in pretty good shape."

However, with research now pointing to smell loss as perhaps a coronavirus symptom, don’t take any chances. Kay advises that if you suddenly experience this symptom, immediately self-isolate and reach out to your doctor.

In addition to Kay and Munger, other members of the GCCR leadership team include:

  • John Hayes, PhD, Penn State, USA
  • Thomas Hummel, MD, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
  • Chrissi Kelly, Founder, AbScent.org, UK
  • Steve Munger, PhD, University of Florida, USA
  • Masha Niv, PhD, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • Kathrin Ohla, PhD, Research Center Jülich, Germany
  • Valentina Parma, PhD, Temple University, USA
  • Danielle Reed, PhD, Monell Chemical Senses Center, USA
  • Maria Veldhuizen, PhD, Mersin University, Turkey

For more information about the GCCR:

Twitter: @GCChemosensoryR

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GCChemosensoryR/

Website: http://gcchemosensr.org/


About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.