COVID-Linked Loss of Smell, Taste Can Linger for Many Months

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TUESDAY, Feb. 23, 2021 — By now, most folks know that a loss of smell and taste are a hallmark of COVID-19 infection, but new research shows it can continue up to five months after the virus first strikes.

“It was apparent from the beginning of the pandemic that a significant percentage of people lost their capacity to smell,” said researcher Dr. Nicolas Dupre, director of neuromuscular and neurogenetic disease clinic at Laval University in Quebec. “This is quite common in many infectious diseases, but in COVID, the effect was much more important.”

In other viruses, smell and taste usually return after the sinuses are clear. But in COVID-19, the virus might penetrate the small area of the brain called the olfactory bulb, which is important for the recognition of smell, Dupre explained.

“The virus probably kills some of the cells in the olfactory bulb, and that’s why you have a long-lasting effect,” he said.

Losing your sense of smell can affect your daily life, Dupre said. And even when it returns, it can be different from before the virus, he said. In some people, the loss of smell might be permanent, but that’s not clear yet.

“We still think that in 80% of the people there’s not as a significant impact on their smell…

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