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[Slashdot] - Coronavirus Patients Lose Senses of Taste, Smell -- and Haven't Gotten Them Back

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: Clinicians racing to understand the novel disease are starting to discern an unusual trend: one common symptom -- the loss of smell and taste -- can linger months after recovery. Doctors say it is possible some survivors may never taste or smell again. Out of 417 patients who suffered mild to moderate forms of Covid-19 in Europe, 88% and 86% reported taste and smell dysfunctions, respectively, according to a study published in April in the European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology. Most patients said they couldn't taste or smell even after other symptoms were gone. Preliminary data showed at least a quarter of people regained their ability to taste and smell within two weeks of other symptoms dissipating. The study said long-term data are needed to assess how long this can last in people who didn't report an improvement. Anyone who has had the sniffles knows a stuffy nose impedes smell and taste; the novel coronavirus's ability to break down smell receptors is puzzling because it occurs without nasal congestion. One theory is that the "olfactory receptors that go to the brain -- that are essentially like a highway to the brain -- commit suicide so they can't carry the virus to the brain," said Danielle Reed, associate director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. "It could be a healthy reaction to the virus. If that doesn't work, maybe people do get sicker," she said. "It might be a positive takeaway from what is obviously a devastating loss to people."

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