Is Loss of Smell Screening Effective for Covid-19?

loss of smell in covid patients

Smell loss (or Anosmia) is one of the first and telltale symptoms of Covid-19, according to the CDC.

That’s why a growing number of experts advocate screening for loss of smell as a simple, cost-effective way to prevent Covid-19 spread.

“My impression is that anosmia is an earlier symptom of Covid-19 relative to fever, and some infected people can have anosmia and nothing else,” said physician Andrew Badley of the Mayo Clinic, speaking to StatNews. “So it’s potentially a more sensitive screen for asymptomatic patients.”

Smell Loss in Covid-19 Patients

In a study analyzing the clinical EMR notes on over 75,000 Coronavirus patients, Badley and colleagues determined that loss of smell and taste by far “were likely the most salient early indicators of COVID-19 infection, including in otherwise asymptomatic patients.”

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center reports up to 80% of people who test positive for COVID-19 have subjective complaints of smell or taste loss. Most patients first notice problems with their sense of smell, but because smell is necessary to taste flavor, the symptoms are often connected.

Researchers at Penn State recommend daily smell testing as a preventive measure to reduce Covid-19 spread. Their studies establish smell loss as a more accurate predictor of infection than cough or fever. They urge people who notice a sudden loss of smell to self-isolate until they can be seen by a healthcare professional and tested for coronavirus.

Testing for Loss of Smell

Wouldn’t you notice if you lost your sense of smell? Perhaps not immediately. Vanderbilt physicians say the identification of Anosmia as a Covid-19 symptom increases when patients are tested using objective methods that measure smell function.

One such method, developed by an Atlanta company, uses commonly recognized smells, like Orange, Mint and Garlic, as a simple, but effective screening solution.

The Optimist Screening Loss of Smell Kit dispenses precise volumes of odorants onto a test sheet that can be quickly sniffed by an individual. If the subject cannot confirm or has difficulty in closely identifying the smell, as a next step they are advised to take an antigen or PCR lab test to verify Covid-19 infection.

Replacement for Fever Screens

While many worksites and schools rely on temperature tests to try and identify and isolate virus carriers, loss of smell tests are more predictive of Covid-19 and have greater benefit, according to Russell Smith, CEO, Optimist Screening.

“The CDC has everyone temperature scanning to only identify symptomatic carriers that are already sick with a fever. But the real problem is the silent asymptomatic carriers,” said Smith. “Identifying these otherwise asymptomatic spreaders is critical to slowing the spread.”

At less than a dollar a test, Optimist Screening offers a cost-effective way for businesses and other organizations to regularly screen large employee, student or customer populations.

Healthcare IT Leaders is an exclusive reseller of Optimist Screening for large enterprise orders. Contact us to learn more and obtain current pricing.