Health & Fitness: Covid new strain symptoms: The smells that signal coronavirus - 'sweet hay, rotting flesh'

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The effects of coronavirus are extensive but one of the hallmark symptoms is loss of smell and taste. The predominant symptom often confounds those it affects and a testimony shared by an NHS dietician on BBC Breakfast illustrates the eeriness of this common symptom. NHS dietician Victoria Bittle said: "The brain's not interpreting things as normal, the things you'd expect to smell bad smells nice."

"For example, going to public toilets smells of sweet hay," she said.

Garlic, onions, coffee - all the thing that should taste nice, taste revolting, Bittle explained.

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The NHS dietician said previously pleasant smells now reek of "sewage, sulphur, rotting flesh".

As Brittle pointed out, it's just such an important part of your life - so much is connected to your sense of smell and taste.

READ MORE: Coronavirus symptoms: Nine additional symptoms experts warn you need to be aware of

a close up of a man: Sweet hay and rotting flesh may signal your sense of smell has gone awry © Getty Images Sweet hay and rotting flesh may signal your sense of smell has gone awry

"Until you lost it yourself you have no idea what it's like."

Another eerie testimonial was shared by Chanay Knight, who described how chicken pasta tasted like "washing up liquid".

"Anything that's got strong flavours in it, I can't stand to smell or taste it at all," Knight said.

How prevalent is is loss of smell and taste?

Various studies have investigated the prevalence of loss of smell and taste as a symptom of coronavirus.

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One of the most conclusive studies was published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

A systematic review was conducted by searching MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the preprint server MedRxiv from their inception until May 11, 2020.

Only studies involving patients with diagnostic-confirmed COVID-19 infection were included.

Twenty-four studies with data from 8438 patients with test-confirmed COVID-19 infection from 13 countries were included.

How does COVID-19 compare with the flu © Getty Images How does COVID-19 compare with the flu

The researchers found a "high prevalence" of "olfactory dysfunction and gustatory dysfunction" among patients infected with COVID-19.

Gustatory dysfunctions is the medical term for taste disturbances.

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What are the other main symptoms of coronavirus?

Other main symptoms include:

  • A high temperature - this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • A new, continuous cough - this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).

"Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms," explains the NHS

How to respond

If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus, get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.

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You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result - only leave your home to have a test.

Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started.

A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.

diagram: When will I be called up? © Getty Images When will I be called up?

How to respond

If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus, get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.

You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result - only leave your home to have a test.

Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started.

A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.

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