Ever since COVID-19 - the severe infectious disease triggered by SARS-CoV-2, a novel strain of the coronavirus, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), it has created a wave of panic amongst people all over the world.

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Currently, this lethal ailment has affected around 8 million persons across the globe and claimed more than 4,00,000 lives, with about 3,33,000 infected in India alone and close to 10,000 deaths.

And the most recent update by the Union Health Ministry in India, including a sudden loss of sense of smell, taste in its official document of the Clinical Management Protocol, as a concrete symptom of COVID-19, has only resulted in further confusion.
Loss of sense of smell, taste

However, one need not worry or fear. Understanding the exact nature of this microbial illness, along with its causes and typical signs, can help in accurate diagnosis and prompt medical treatment. 

COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease i.e. it spreads rapidly from a sick person to a healthy individual by means of air droplets carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus particles. Also Read: Coronavirus: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Once this viral matter invades the nasal passage and eventually enters the lungs, it invariably leads to acute breathing difficulties and respiratory failure.

Nevertheless, not all cases of COVID-19 are serious, provided the spread of infection to the lungs can be contained and inherent body immunity is functioning at an optimal level, to destroy the attacking virus units.

How Does COVID-19 Cause A Loss Of Sense Of Smell And Taste?

Anosmia refers to a loss of sense of smell, while ageusia is the medical term for not being able to tell apart varying flavours. A team of researchers at the Hong Kong University have identified that the SARS-CoV-2 virus afflicts only the outer layer of tissues, known as the olfactory and gustatory epithelium, that line the nose and tongue, which are responsible for the sensory capabilities of smell and taste. Also Read: Anosmia: Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

Hence COVID-19 does not permanently hamper smell and taste in an infected person, as the nerves located in the deeper layers of nose and tongue remain unaffected. It is only temporary and the sense of smell and taste is restored in a person, once COVID-19 is completely cured.

What Are The Other Symptoms Of Coronavirus Infection?

COVID-19 is essentially an infectious viral disease that causes irritation and discomfort in the upper respiratory tract.

The symptoms of COVID-19, thus, naturally resemble that of a common cold or flu, and consist of fever, cough, sore throat, headaches, breathing trouble, muscle pain and diarrhoea.

Does The Inability To Differentiate Smell, Taste Always Indicate COVID-19?

No, experiencing a momentary trait of the incapacity to distinguish odours by the nose, or flavours by the tongue, does not always definitely indicate COVID-19.

People suffering from other frequently reported conditions, such as seasonal allergies, common cold and flu also develop anosmia and/or ageusia. So, ideally, the only way to conclusively determine if an individual has COVID-19 is to get tested in a hospital as soon as any symptoms of the viral disorder are recognised.

Which Is The Best Approach To Prevent COVID-19?

Infectious diseases prompted by viruses have plagued humans for a long period of time. Just like in the case of the flu or a chronic allergy, there is no magical solution to block COVID-19 infections from entering the respiratory tract altogether.

Consuming a balanced diet loaded with herbs, spices, regular exercise and proper sleep significantly bolsters the intrinsic defence system in the body. Therefore, when SARS-CoV-2 or any microbial germs attempt to invade the system, the heightened immune functions will effectively tackle the disease and ensure full and complete protection.