New research published Thursday has revealed that COVID-19 has caused a "emerging public health concern" of people losing their sense of smell, or anosmia.
According to a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, between 700,000 and 1.6 million people in the U.S. with COVID-19 have lost or experienced a change in their sense of smell that lasts longer than six months. Authors from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis say this is most certainly an underestimate.
According to the study, most people regain their sense of smell over time, but some never do. The authors are concerned about this since, prior to the pandemic, only 13.3 million persons aged 40 and older had olfactory dysfunction (OD) or chronic olfactory dysfunction (COD), as defined by scientists.
"These data suggest an emerging public health concern of OD and the urgent need for research that focuses on treating COVID-19 COD," the study said.
In milder forms of COVID-19, acute olfactory dysfunction is more common than in moderate-to-critical disease. While 95% of patients regain their sense of smell six months after infection, the 5% who do not, according to the study, account for a significant number of people.
While losing one's sense of smell for a long time may seem insignificant compared to other long-term symptoms like chronic fatigue or heart problems, experts warn that losing one's sense of smell can be dangerous.
People who have lost their sense of smell are more than twice as likely as those who have retained their sense of smell to experience hazards such as eating spoiled food, according to a 2014 study. In previous research, the loss of one's sense of smell has been connected to depression.
Patients with COVID-19 have been found to have three different types of long-term olfactory abnormalities, according to the paper.
Some people lose or lose their sense of smell. Some people have an abnormal sense of smell, smelling something else instead of the object, like stinky feet instead of flowers, for example. Others may suffer from what Hayes refers to as "phantom limb syndrome" for their sense of smell, in which they detect odors that aren't truly present, such as a persistent chemical or burning odor.
The coronavirus pandemic had numerous impacts, ranging from millions of fatalities due to COVID-19 to the reappearance of other infections. Permanent anosmia, however, could be one of the most noticeable long-term effects of infection.