Coincidence of COVID-19 epidemic and olfactory dysfunction outbreak

Because of the newly identified virus, it is expected that new reports about different aspects of the disease will be released daily. In this way, an update on its clinical and laboratory presentations has reported fever, respiratory symptoms, cough, fatigue, myalgia, arthralgia and breathing difficulties as the common presentations of the confirmed cases.

However, recent surge of olfactory dysfunction in patients who were referred to ENT (ears, nose and throat) clinics and concurrent COVID-19 epidemic in Iran motivated the authors of a study to evaluate anosmic/hyposmic patients to find any relation between these two events.

This study was a cross-sectional study with an online checklist on voluntary cases in all provinces of Iran between the 12th and 17th March, 2020.

Cases were defined as self-reported anosmia/hyposmia in responders fewer than 4 weeks later (from start of the COVID-19 epidemic in Iran). Variables consist of clinical presentations, related past medical history, family history of recent respiratory tract infection and hospitalization.

In this study 10,069 participants aged 7-78 years, 71.13% female and 81.68% non-smoker completed online checklist. They reported also 10.55% a history of a trip out of home town and 1.1% hospitalization due to respiratory problems recently. From family members 12.17% had a history of severe respiratory disease in recent days and 48.23% had anosmia/hyposmia.

In this way, correlation between the number of olfactory disorder and reported COVID-19 patients in all 31 provinces till 16th March 2020 was highly significant. The onset of anosmia was sudden in 76.24% and till the time of filling the questionnaire, in 60.90% of patients decreased sense of smell was constant. Also 83.38% of this patients had decreased taste sensation in association with anosmia, so authors suggest it seems that there was a surge in outbreak of olfactory dysfunction happened in Iran during the COVID-19 epidemic. However, the exact mechanism of anosmia/hyposmia in COVID-19 patients’ needs further investigations.

Link to the paper: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.23.20041889

Editorial Disclaimer: information published during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic may be updated frequently to reflect the dynamic nature of current understanding.

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