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Loss of smell, taste added to U.K.’s official COVID-19 symptom list

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LONDON — The United Kingdom has added the loss of smell and taste to its official list of COVID-19 symptoms including fever and new continuous cough — a step that it hopes could help pick up about two per cent more cases of the novel coronavirus.

“From today, all individuals should self-isolate if they develop a new continuous cough or fever or anosmia,” the United Kingdom’s four chief medical officers said in a joint statement.

“Anosmia is the loss or a change in your normal sense of smell. It can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked.”

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Other possible symptoms of COVID-19 include fatigue, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or loss of appetite, but have not been included in the basic case definition.

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By adding anosmia the sensitivity of new case pick-up could increase to 93 percent from 91 percent with just new cough and fever, said Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer.

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When asked why the United Kingdom has lagged other countries in including the loss of smell in its official list, Van-Tam said: “The question is: Which of those symptoms actually make the interception of cases better or worse?”

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—Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton and Peter Graff

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