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Rutgers expert weighs in on altered sense of smell, taste caused by viral infections

<p>Rachel Kaye, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, is beginning to study the connection between lost senses and coronavirus disease, according to a press release.</p>

Rachel Kaye, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, is beginning to study the connection between lost senses and coronavirus disease, according to a press release.


Anosmia, the loss of the sense of smell, or dysgeusia, the distortion of taste, could be early signals of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to a statement on the American Academy of Otolaryngology’s (AAO) website.

“Anecdotal evidence is rapidly accumulating from sites around the world that anosmia and dysgeusia are significant symptoms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the AAO said, according to the statement.  “Anosmia, in particular, has been seen in patients ultimately testing positive for the (COVID-19) with no other symptoms. We propose that these symptoms be added to the list of screening tools for possible COVID-19 infection.”

The AAO said people with these symptoms should consider getting tested for COVID-19 regardless of whether these symptoms are accompanied by respiratory conditions, according to the statement. 

Rachel Kaye, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, is beginning to study the connection between lost senses and COVID-19, according to a press release. 

“Since these people do not show other symptoms, they won’t know to self-quarantine, which could spread the virus,” Kaye said, according to the release. 

She said it is common for viral infections to alter senses. Viruses often inflame the lining of the nasal cavity, which can lead to congestion that affects an individual’s ability to smell. Some evidence also shows viral infections cause neurologic damage to smell receptors or neurons, according to the release. 

Kaye said individuals who lose their sense of smell do not necessarily have COVID-19 and may be dealing with a different type of upper respiratory infection, bacterial infection or viral infection. She said other reasons people may lose their sense of smell include medication side effects, sinus disease, neurologic disorders, aging and smoking, among other things, according to the release.

Kaye said individuals with these symptoms should talk to their primary care doctor otorhinolaryngologist about any specific symptoms they are experiencing. She said those who experience these symptoms and have been exposed to COVID-19 may consider self-isolating until they have definitive test results, according to the release. 

“That being said, although the anecdotal evidence is increasing, there have not yet been any scientific studies published regarding this, and so strict protocols for people experiencing these symptoms are lacking,” Kaye said, according to the release. 


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