Ansomnia: loss of smell or taste as the only symptom of COVID-19

Ansomnia: loss of smell or taste as the only symptom of COVID-19

We are pleased to speak with former EASO Vice President, Northern Region, Professor Jøran Hjelmesæth, MD, PhD, Head of the Morbid Obesity Centre within the Vestfold Hospital Trust, Norway, about his recent case report on olfactory and taste disorders (OTDs) among patients with COVID-19.

Professor Hjelmesæth, thank you for sharing this interesting case report. There has been increasing interest in scientific literature recently around ansomnia as one of the possible symptoms of COVID-19. Your case seems unique.

Thank you. Unfortunately, isolated loss of smell and/or taste seems to be a relatively frequent manifestation of COVID-19, which should be taken seriously by the public, medical personnel and national health authorities.

In our study, we conclude that “National and international health authorities should consider whether isolated disturbances of smell and/or taste are a sufficient basis for testing for COVID-19 and/or isolation to limit spread of the infection.”

Clinical data from China indicates that people with few or no symptoms can be carriers of SARS-CoV-2 and that we should attempt to identify these people. How realistic do you believe this is in Europe?

I think that identifying and diagnosing people with fewer classical symptoms (such as anosmia) would be appropriate, realistic and quite easy to implement in most countries.

Given your report and other recent data, do you believe the distinctive ansomnia and ageusia symptoms are potentially useful diagnostics?

Yes, I agree with several colleagues and international organisations, including Professor Claire Hopkins, president of the British Association of Otorhinolaryngology and the American otorhinolaryngologists that “anosmia, hyposmia and dysgeusia in the absence of other explanatory conditions be placed on the list of symptoms that should give rise to suspicion of COVID-19, and that testing and isolation should be considered.” This might be particularly important among people with obesity who have been identified to be at moderately to highly increased risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

Thank you, Professor Hjelmesæth; it sounds like identification of these symptoms might act as very a useful “early warning system” for people living with obesity and other vulnerable groups.

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