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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 2 July, 2020

Loss of taste and smell to be added to list Covid-19 symptoms in Ireland

The Department of Health confirmed the move this evening.

A woman wears a face mask as she waits for a bus in Dublin city.
A woman wears a face mask as she waits for a bus in Dublin city.

THE SUDDEN LOSS of taste and smell is to be added to the list of symptoms of Covid-19, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The loss of sense of taste, smell or both is known as anosmia and last week it was added to the list of coronavirus symptoms by health authorities in the UK. 

Speaking at a briefing this evening, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan said anosmia has been reported “as a clear feature of this disease” and that the European Centre for Disease Prevention (ECDC) is expected to issue guidance on it tomorrow. 

When this guidance is issued, the Department of Health will add it to the list of symptoms. 

“It’s now a well-described phenomenon internationally, which is why we expect the ECDC to include it in this case definition advice tomorrow,” he said. 

Holohan said there have been reports of anosmia potentially related to Covid-19 in this country but that he couldn’t put an exact figure on the number.

We do know from anecdotal reports that there have been reports of this symptom in this country, but because we haven’t tracked it, we have identified it as part of the case definition, I couldn’t give you numbers on that.

The HSE website lists a number of symptoms of Covid-19, including a cough, a fever and shortness of breath. It advises people with symptoms to self-isolate

The loss of a sense of taste or smell has been identified as far back as late March by researchers as a symptom of Covid-19

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Holohan said Irish health experts were aware of this research but that they were awaiting formal guidance from the ECDC. 

We were aware that some, particularly the UK, made this change a week ago but first of all we didn’t have ECDC guidance that suggested this particular change in the way that we’re anticipating tomorrow. But second of all, that was the week in which we were introducing testing of contacts as a new arrangement, which as I said very few countries have got in place. 

“And we were communicating that to GPs and we think it’s important that in making changes, we don’t do a lot of changes all at the same time and create confusion,” he said. 

Asked whether people who experience anosmia should contact a GP, Holohan said they should:

“If you’re worried about your symptoms, we’d encourage you to make contact with your GP and to do that early in the course of your symptoms. We think we can make important gains in early identification of cases and then subsequent contacts by you as an individual reporting your symptoms early.”

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Rónán Duffy

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