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COVID odor loss can last for several months

TUESDAY, February 23, 2021 (HealthDay News) – By now, most people know that loss of smell and taste is a hallmark of COVID-19 infection, but new research shows it can continue for up to five months after the virus. strikes.

“It was obvious from the start of the pandemic that a large percentage of people had lost their ability to smell,” said researcher Dr. Nicolas Dupré, director of the clinic for neuromuscular and neurogenetic diseases at Laval University in Quebec. “It’s quite common in many infectious diseases, but in COVID the effect was much larger.”

In other viruses, the smell and taste usually return after the sinuses are cleared. But in COVID-19, the virus could enter the small area of ​​the brain called the olfactory bulb, which is important for smell recognition, Dupré explained.

“The virus is probably killing some of the cells in the olfactory bulb, and that’s why you have a long-lasting effect,” he says.

Losing your sense of smell can affect your daily life, said Dupré. And even when he does come back, it may be different from before the virus, he said. In some people, the loss of smell may be permanent, but it is not yet clear.

“We still believe that in 80% of people, there is not such a significant impact on their smell. So most people recover, but in a small percentage it can be permanent, so it could be part of long term disability. that we see in COVID, ”said Dupré.

For the study, his team collected data on more than 800 healthcare workers with COVID-19. Participants completed an online survey and home test to assess their sense of taste and smell approximately five months after diagnosis.

A total of 580 people lost their sense of smell, and 297 of them (51%) said they had not regained their sense of smell five months later. A home test found 17% had persistent odor loss.

In addition, 527 participants lost their sense of taste during the initial illness. Of these, 38% said they had not regained their sense of taste five months later, and 9% had persistent loss of taste when assessed with the home test, the researchers found. .