Medical Technology

Over 1 Million with Long-Term Smell Loss Due to COVID

Editor’s Note: Search for the most recent COVID-19 news from Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

A new study says 700,000 to 1.6 million people in the United States who got COVID-19 might have lost their sense of smell for 6 months or longer.

This is the conclusion of scientists at the Washington University in St. Louis who began their study after a rising number of patients complained about their taste and smell for months after they had recovered from COVID.

“In the last few months, my colleagues as well as me noticed a drastic increase in the number patients seeking medical attention for olfactory disorders. Jay Piccirillo, the study author and an otolaryngologist from Washington University, told Gizmodo.

The researchers began by looking at the number of daily new coronavirus cases identified by the COVID Tracking Project from Jan. 13, 2020 through March 7, 2021, according to the research note on the study released by JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.

They were able to reduce the prevalence of acute COVID olfactory dysfunction (OD) at 52.7% (based on a recent meta-analysis) and the rate of recovery from OD at 95.3% (based on a prospective study).

“This analysis of new daily cases of COVID-19, acute incidence of OD and rates of recovery suggest that more than 700 000, and possibly 1.6 million, U.S. individuals experience COD (chronic Olfactory Dysfunction) because of SARS-CoV-2,” the study concluded.

These figures include people who have reported parosmia, a deformed sense of smell that could make a normally pleasant smell similar to that of fresh fruit, smell bad or smell rotten. Researchers cautioned that the numbers may well be an undercount as the disease isn’t over.

Other conditions besides COVID can cause COD, the study states. The addition of 700,000 to 1.6 million cases of COVID related COD represents an increase of 5.3% to 12% increase in the total amount of people suffering from COD they claimed.

The authors stated that COVID causes the loss of smell over time and odor, which is more severe for the younger age group.

“COVID-19 is a more youthful demographic group than other causes of olfactory dysfunction” the study concluded. “Thus the lifetime burden of olfactory dysfunction will be much greater for the COVID-19 cohort than for patients who are in older age groups.”


Gizmodo. More than a million Americans may have lost their sense of smell to Covid-19

JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. “Growing Public Health Concerns of COVID-19 Chronic Olfactory Dysfunction”

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