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New survey reveals that 7 in 10 people infected with the coronavirus say they lost their sense of smell for some period of time.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — While the vast majority of COVID-19 patients will return to health within weeks of their infection, a new study reveals some may end up suffering the after-effects for months. Researchers from the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres say patients could lose their sense of taste and smell for up to five months after catching the virus.

Even then, study authors warn the average person might not fully regain their sense of smell. More than 800 health care workers completed questionnaires and home tests to check their sense of taste and smell five months after their COVID-19 diagnosis. They rated their senses on a scale from zero, meaning no sense at all, to ten meaning a strong sense of taste or smell.

“While COVID-19 is a new disease, previous research shows that most people lose their sense of smell and taste in early stages of the illness,” study author Professor Johannes Frasnelli says in a media release. “We wanted to go further and look at how long that loss of smell and taste lingers, and how severe it is in people with COVID-19.”

COVID’s attack on the senses

Of the 813 health care professionals in the study, around seven in ten said they lost their sense of smell while dealing with coronavirus. Five months later, 51 percent of these patients said their sense of smell had not returned. Additionally, 17 percent showed ongoing loss of smell via the home test kits. On average, people ranked their sense of smell at a seven out of 10 after the illness. In comparison, the group rated themselves at a nine out of ten before their infection.

A total of 580 people (65%) lost their sense of taste during the initial illness. Out of this group, 200 people (38%) said they failed to regain their sense of taste five months later. Nine percent had persistent loss of taste when evaluated with the home test kit. Thankfully, most of the health care workers saw their sense of taste return after recovering from COVID, ranking it an eight out of ten.

“Our results show that an impaired sense of smell and taste may persist in a number of people with COVID-19,” Prof. Frasnelli reports. “This emphasizes the importance of following up with people who have been infected, and the need for further research to discover the extent of neurological problems associated with COVID-19.”

Researchers note that their findings have some limitations, including the fact that the smell and taste ratings are subjective to each patient.

The finding are set to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting being held virtually from April 17-22.

SWNS writer Laura Sharman contributed to this report.

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