Loss of taste “best sign” to spot Covid-19


We all know the symptoms of coronavirus by now – persistent cough, fever, shortness of breath.

But loss of taste and smell could be the best way of predicting if you have Covid-19, according to new analysis by Kings College London (KCL).

Researchers have developed a symptom tracking app, and are asking members of the public to log their symptoms – or lack of them – every day, to help scientists learn more about the virus.

Of the 1.5 million app users they studied last week, 26% are reporting illness.

A total of 1,702 people on the app have been tested, and 579 have Covid-19.

KCL scientists worked with analysts at nutritional science start-up ZOE to assess symptoms and predict signs of the illness.

These include a persistent cough, fatigue, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and low appetite.

But loss of taste and smell was the most accurate indicator: 59% of those who tested positive for coronavirus reported this symptom, compared to just 18 per cent of negative testers.

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It was more strongly linked to a positive result than a self-reported fever.

With more than 400,000 people reporting possible signs of Covid-19 via the app, these findings suggests 50,000 could have the virus undiagnosed.

KCL lead researcher Professor Tim Spector said people who can’t smell or taste should self-isolate to prevent further spread of the disease.

He said: “This urgent research is only possible thanks to the now 1.8 million citizen scientists logging their symptoms every day. 

“This also gives us an evolving map of the UK of where symptoms are occurring two to three weeks before a strain on the NHS, which is why it’s vital to continue logging your health and symptoms, even when you feel completely healthy, and encourage others to use the app.” 

You can download the app and join the research at covid.joinzoe.com.

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