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Loss of taste and smell is an important symptom for COVID-19

The latest analysis of data from the COVID Symptom Tracker app suggests a loss of sense of taste and smell may be the best way to tell whether someone has COVID-19.

The app, which was developed by a King’s College London team in association with the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre and a healthcare start-up ZOE Global LTD, asks users to log their symptoms (or lack thereof) daily. By the end of March, 1.8 million users in the UK had signed up to log their symptoms daily.

Between 24-29 March, 26% of the 1.5 million app users reported one or more symptoms; 1,702 of this 26% reported having been tested for COVID-19, with 579 positive results and 1,123 negative results.

In addition, 59% of those patients who tested positive for COVID-19 reported a loss of taste and smell, compared with just 18% of those who tested negative for the disease.

Despite not yet being added to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 symptom list, lead researcher Tim Spector said: “When combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be three times more likely to have contracted COVID-19 according to our data, and should, therefore, self-isolate for seven days to reduce the spread of the disease.”

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