Recent anecdotal reports suggests that perhaps one of the earliest signs of COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV19 or more commonly known as Corona Virus, are a strongly diminished sense of smell and taste, or anosmia and dysgeusia. Many COVID-19 patients report either some or complete loss of their sense of smell, that affects their sense of taste as well. Others report not to be able to taste anything, including the basic tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami). And some people also report that anosmia was one of the first things they noticed when they were infected with corona virus, making it potentially a diagnostic indicator.
It is very early to conclude anything on this suspected link, and more research is needed. A large number of chemosensory scientists from all around the world have joined forces in the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research (GCCR). Together they will study how corona virus may affect the upper airways including the sense of smell and taste, what the developmental trajectory is of this link, and how people recover, on a global scale. Members of NOSE, including Sanne Boesveldt, Jasper de Groot, Laura Speed, Garmt Dijksterhuis, and Ilja Croijmans are also involved in this joint effort. More information is soon to follow.
One advice from one of the members of GCCR, Barry Smith, is that when you notice a diminished sense of smell or taste, please take care and self-isolate, since this may be an early sign that you may be infected with the virus. Do note that since the research is not yet final, losing your sense of smell may have various different causes too – it is not (yet) a diagnostic tool for COVID-19.