Coronavirus symptoms are listed by the NHS as a new, continuous cough, a high temperature and, more recently, a loss of sense of taste and smell. The virus has also been shown to vary in severity. Studies have shown some people with the virus are asymptomatic, prompting experts to believe this is a major way the virus has been spreading.
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While the World Health Organization (WHO) has today announced the spread of COVID-19 by someone who is not showing symptoms appears to be rare, there are reports of loss of smell in asymptomatic people.
Near the start of the pandemic, Patient.info explained: “It is possible that a large proportion of the population will have COVID-19 yet have no symptoms at all, but we don’t know that yet.
“It seems likely that this will occur more often in the healthiest and the younger age groups, including most children.”
But it added: “Being asymptomatic means that you have no symptoms. However, there are reports of loss of sense of smell in asymptomatic people. Technically even that is a symptom.”
Loss of sense of smell, also known as anosmia, was added to the UK’s list of coronavirus symptoms in early May.
In response to this and in a publicly shared letter, Professor Claire Hopkins, President of the British Rhinology Society and Professor of Rhinology, King’s College London, on behalf of ENT UK, said: “There have been a rapidly growing number of reports of a significant increase in the number of patients presenting with anosmia in the absence of other symptoms – this has been widely shared on medical discussion boards by surgeons from all regions managing a high incidence of cases.
“Iran has reported a sudden increase in cases of isolated anosmia, and many colleagues from the US, France and Northern Italy have the same experience.
“I have personally seen four patients this week, all under 40, and otherwise asymptomatic except for the recent onset of anosmia – I usually see roughly no more than one a month.
“I think these patients may be some of the hitherto hidden carriers that have facilitated the rapid spread of COVID-19.”
The government announced on May 22 the start of a major new national antibody testing programme, with plans to provide antibody tests to NHS and care staff in England from the end of May, to help with such cases.
What are antibody tests?
Antibody tests are used to detect antibodies to the COVID-19 virus to see if you have perviously had the virus.
GOV.UK explains: “The test works by taking a blood sample and testing for the presence of antibodies to see if you have developed an immune response to the virus.
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“Antibody tests differ to virus swab (PCR) tests, which test to see if you currently have the virus.”
It adds: “There is no strong evidence yet to suggest that those who have had the virus develop long-lasting immunity which would prevent them from getting the virus again.
“Therefore, the value of antibody tests is currently limited to answering the question of whether someone has had the virus or not, and providing data and a greater understanding on the spread of the virus.”
At the moment, the antibody testing programme is being prioritised for NHS and care home staff who would like to be tested.
What to do if you think you have symptoms
If you experience a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or loss or change to your send of smell or taste, you should use the 111 online coronavirus service.
If you cannot get help online, call 111 and avoid going to places like a GPO surgery, hospital or pharmacy.
The NHS advises: “If your symptoms are mild you must not to leave your home. This is called self-isolation.
“Anyone with symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days from when their symptoms started.
“Anyone who does not have symptoms must self-isolate for 14 days from when the first person in your home started having symptoms.”
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