There's been a fair amount of talk about people who test positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 but show no symptoms. Now, doctors are warning about some odd symptoms many may not have realized are actually symptoms: a lost or reduced sense of smell or taste. The New York Times notes a few anecdotal reports, like a mother who couldn't smell her baby's dirty diaper or a cook who said food started tasting bland. British ear, nose, and throat doctors on Friday urged anyone who experiences such symptoms to self-isolate for seven days, even if nothing else seems to be wrong. "We really want to raise awareness that this is a sign of infection," says one. Doctors in Italy agree that, based on what they've seen and heard from patients, there are likely many experiencing only these symptoms and unknowingly spreading the virus. Business Insider calls them "hidden carriers."
The published data is limited, but a few studies have found sensory loss was the main symptom in a large percentage of mild cases. Health care workers who treat people who have lost their sense of smell or taste have been urged to wear personal protective equipment, and certain nonessential procedures are recommended to be postponed. The doctor quoted above says ear, nose, and throat specialists and eye doctors were infected and dying in significant numbers in Wuhan, China, and that two ENTs in Britain who got the virus are now in critical condition. And on Sunday, the American Academy of Otolaryngology chimed in, giving the same warning as the British experts and noting that a high rate of COVID-19 transmission to otolaryngologists has been noted in China, Iran, and Italy, often resulting in death. Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz says he has lost his sense of taste and smell as a result of being infected, per Yahoo Sports. (Read more coronavirus stories.)