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AAN: Smell Loss Can Persist for Five Months After COVID-19

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24, 2021 -- Chemosensory dysfunction (CD) persists in a considerable proportion of patients up to five months after COVID-19, according to a study scheduled for presentation at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, to be held virtually from April 17 to 22.

Nicholas Bussiere, from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières in Canada, and colleagues examined COVID-19-related persistent CD in a cohort of 813 health care workers from Quebec who received a positive diagnosis for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 with a nasopharyngeal swab. Participants responded to a 64-item questionnaire at an average of 150.1 days postdiagnosis.

The researchers found that the average self-reported smell ratings were 8.98, 2.85, and 7.41 before infection, during the acute phase, and at completion of the questionnaire, respectively. The corresponding figures for taste were 9.20, 3.59, and 8.05. The average smell rating was 6.89 at the time of responding to the questionnaire compared with 9.03 before infection among 580 respondents who indicated a compromised sense of smell during the acute phase. About half (51.2 percent) reported not regaining olfactory function at the time of testing; 18.4 percent of respondents had persistent loss of smell when assessed with a previously validated CD-home test.

"Our results show that an impaired sense of smell and taste may persist in a number of people with COVID-19," a coauthor said in a statement. "This emphasizes the importance of following up with people who have been infected, and the need for further research to discover the extent of neurological problems associated with COVID-19."

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