More than 700K people in the US may have lost their sense of smell to COVID, study estimates

Loss of taste or smell are defining symptoms of COVID-19, and a new study published Nov. 18 in JAMA Otolaryngology estimates up to 1.6 million people in the U.S. may experience chronic olfactory problems after their infection.  

Widespread loss of smell may have profound effects on public health, as it's linked to a decreased quality of life and impaired food intake and can hamper a person's ability to detect harmful gas and smoke, among other consequences, researchers said. 

To estimate the scale of chronic olfactory dysfunction as a result of COVID-19, researchers used national data on new daily cases and studies on the incidence of acute olfactory dysfunction and recovery rates to estimate the number of people in the U.S. who have lost their ability to smell. 

Based on the lowest estimates, the number of people expected to develop chronic olfactory issues is 170,238. The highest estimates expect 1.6 million people to experience long-term olfactory problems, while the intermediate estimates suggest more than 700,000 people had developed chronic olfactory dysfunction by August. 

"These data suggest an emerging public health concern of OD and the urgent need for research that focuses on treating COVID-19 COD," researchers said.


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