Loss of smell or taste added to NHS Covid-19 symptoms list

Support us and go ad-free

A loss or changed sense of taste or smell are to be added to the NHS coronavirus symptoms list, weeks after experts first raised concerns that Covid-19 cases are being missed.

Anyone suffering loss of taste or smell, or a noticeable change, should now self-isolate for seven days to reduce the risk of spreading the infection, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said.

If the symptomatic person lives with others, they should stay at home for seven days, while all other household members should stay home for 14 days even if they do not have symptoms.

The move means loss of smell or taste will now be listed alongside fever and cough as the main symptoms of Covid-19.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Prof Van-Tam told reporters it would mean 93% of cases where people have symptoms are now picked up, a rise from 91% previously.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

It comes after a major study, published last week by Professor Tim Spector at King’s College London, found that people with a positive test result were three times more likely to report loss of smell and taste as a symptom than those who went on to test negative.

He heavily criticised the government’s stance on Monday, saying infected people had been encouraged back to work due to a failure to track symptoms properly.

Prof Spector, head of the department of genetic epidemiology and leader of the Covid symptom study app at King’s, said 50,000 to 70,000 people in the UK with Covid-19 were currently not being told to self-isolate even though they had the virus.

He blamed Public Health England (PHE) and the wider strategy, saying an insistence that only fever and cough were the major symptoms was missing thousands of cases.

Until now, the NHS 111 coronavirus symptom checker has listed high temperature and cough as the symptoms of Covid-19.

Prof Van-Tam said on 3 April that the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) had looked at the issue and concluded loss of smell or taste should not be added to the symptom list.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (PA)
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (PA)

But in the same month, ENT UK, the professional membership body representing ear, nose and throat surgery in the UK, published guidance to patients saying it believed loss of smell and loss of taste were symptoms of coronavirus and that it had shared these details with PHE.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) listed loss of smell and taste as “less common symptoms” several weeks ago and other countries, including the US, added the symptom.

On Monday, Prof Van-Tam said people should now watch out for a “loss of or change in your normal” sense of smell or taste.

He said it had been known for a while that people were reporting loss of smell and taste as symptoms but advisers had needed to look at it in detail.

He said the science around it had been difficult, adding that there had been variables around how common the symptom is and that Nervtag has “been keeping a close eye on this for quite some time”.

He said there were some cases where the symptom appeared early on “but in many cases, it does not appear early”.

He said it was unclear whether or not loss of sense of taste and smell was acquired prior to other Covid-19 symptoms.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Yet another case of some so-called expert telling the public what the public had known for months.
      What dusty old classroom have they pulled this one out of?
      How many kids are going to end up dying from pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome because the Government are sending them back to school?
      Or are they trying to reduce the benefits bill by killing kids in much the same way they have been killing off the pensioners.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.