Coronavirus Roundup: Loss of Taste, Smell Linked to COVID-19; Warm Weather May Slow Spread; and Underlying Health Issues

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April 17, 2020


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ENT Doctors: Sudden Loss of Smell or Taste may be a Symptom of COVID-19

A reduced sense of smell or taste could be a symptom of coronavirus, COVID-19, medical groups representing ear, nose and throat specialists have warned.

After reviewing a growing number of cases around the world, the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and ENT UK (United Kingdom’s organization of head and neck specialists) each issued warnings about patients who tested positive for the new coronavirus, with the only symptom being a lost or reduced sense of smell or taste.

“Anecdotal evidence is rapidly accumulating from sites around the world that anosmia (loss of smell) and dysgeusia (altered sense of taste) are significant symptoms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery wrote in a statement.

South Korea, China and Italy have all reported “significant numbers” of known COVID-19 patients with lost or reduced sense of smell, according to joint statement by Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, and Nirmal Kumar, president of ENT UK.

A lost or reduced sense of taste or smell “could potentially be used as a screening tool to help identify otherwise asymptomatic patients, who could then be better instructed on self-isolation,” said ENT UK in a statement.

Warmer Weather Could Slow Down Coronavirus Spread, But Not Stop It, Research Indicates

Communities with warmer weather may have an advantage in slowing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)  infections, according to an preliminary analysis by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The MIT researchers found that most coronavirus transmissions had occurred in regions with temperatures between 37.4 and 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit (3 and 17 degrees Celsius).

But researchers also issued a cautionary note: “Our results in no way suggest that (COVID-19) would not spread in warm humid regions and effective public health interventions should be implemented across the world to slow down the transmission of (COVID-10).”

Nations with equatorial climates (relatively high temperatures year-around) and those in the Southern Hemisphere, currently in the middle of summer, have reported coronavirus cases, regions. But cases in regions with average temperatures above 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18 degrees Celsius) represent fewer than 6 percent of global cases thus far, the researchers said.

The possible seasonal/temperature pattern observed by researchers is similar to what epidemiologists have seen with other viruses.

At least two other studies have made similar conclusion. One analysis by researchers in Spain and Finland found that the coronavirus spread seems more widespread in dry conditions and temperatures between 28.3 degrees and 49 degrees Fahrenheit (or minus 2 and 10 degrees Celsius).

New York City Report: 95% of COVID-19 Deaths Also Had Underlying Illnesses

The vast majority – 95 percent — of nearly 200 deaths from the coronavirus monitored in New York City had underlying health conditions, according to data from the city’s health department released this week.

However, nearly half of those who died were under the age of 75. The data from New York City is similar to trends in other cities and nations with major COVID-19 outbreaks. New York City has the largest outbreak in the U.S. More than 99 percent of Italy’s coronavirus fatalities were adults who also had pre-existing medical conditions, according to a study out last week from the country’s Rome-based national health authority.

Some of the underlying conditions in the New York City cases are diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and heart disease.

While much of the concern about coronavirus has focused on the elderly, New York City’s data show a significant number of people hospitalized are adults under 64 – with 20 percent of hospital patients ages 45-64. Additionally, 33 percent of patients hospitalized are ages 65-74. At age 75 and older, half of the diagnosed patients have been hospitalized.

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