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Losing your sense of smell or taste could mean you have coronavirus, even if you have no other symptoms

Implications of newly reported virus symptom
Newly reported coronavirus symptom catches doctors' attention 04:26

NBA star Rudy Gobert says he's lost his sense his smell and taste over the last few days after testing positive for coronavirus less than two weeks ago. Gobert wondered publicly about his symptoms, which a British medical group says have also been observed in other people who tested positive — including some potential "hidden carriers" who don't have any other signs of illness. 

Gobert, who was the first NBA player to test positive for the virus, tweeted to his more than 450,000 followers about not being able to smell or taste Sunday. "Just to give you guys an update, loss of smell and taste is definitely one of the symptoms, haven't been able to smell anything for the last 4 days. Anyone experiencing the same thing?" he wrote. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some patients also report digestive issues like diarrhea.

Anosmia, defined as the loss of the sense of smell; hyposmia, a reduced ability to smell or detect odors; and dysgeusia, which is a distortion of the sense of taste, have also been seen in a growing number of coronavirus patients in several countries. So much so, in fact, that the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery is pushing to add these symptoms to the list of screening tools for possible COVID-19 infection.

Professor Claire Hopkins, an ear, nose and throat specialist and president of the British Rhinological Society, told CBS News that people with a recent loss of smell should isolate themselves and consider it a potential sign of coronavirus infection, just like a cough or fever. 

"Self isolation for new onset loss of sense of smell as it has the potential to reduce transmission by 'silent spreaders' — asymptomatic but otherwise well and so do not meet criteria to stay at home," Hopkins told CBS News in an email. 

A number of other viral infections are known to cause some patients to lose their sense of smell or taste, so it makes sense that this could be happening due to coronavirus as well.

Hopkins and Nirmal Kumar, president of ENT UK, an association of ear, nose and throat doctors, issued a statement Saturday about these particular symptoms. They suggested that adults should self-quarantine if they exhibit a loss of sense of smell — even if they don't feel sick and haven't tested positive yet for coronavirus. 

"I think these patients may be some of the hitherto hidden carriers that have facilitated the rapid spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, these patients do not meet current criteria for testing or self-isolation," the statement said. 

The alert comes as the U.S., U.K. and other countries have urged people to stay home and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 40,000 people in the U.S. have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus, more than anywhere else but China and Italy. Worldwide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is nearing 350,000, and the death toll is over 15,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

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