The government is mulling over the inclusion of sudden loss of taste and smell as a criteria for COVID-19 testing, sources said on Friday (June 12) as India witnessed a surge in coronavirus infections with the tally heading towards the three lakh mark.
The issue was discussed in a meeting of the National Task Force on COVID-19 held last Sunday, but no consensus on the matter has been reached yet.
“At the meeting, some members suggested including loss of taste and smell in the eligibility criteria for COVID-19 testing stating that several patients have been reporting symptoms like these,” a source in the health ministry said.
According to an expert, even though the symptom is not specific to COVID-19 (since one may suffer from loss of smell and taste when they have flu or influenza), it could be one of the early signs of the onset of the disease and prompt detection may help in early treatment.
The first set of criteria for COVID testing was established in January and included fever, cough, and breathlessness as primary symptoms. Later, in May, gastrointestinal issues like diarrhoea or vomiting were also added to the list.
Following the latest additions to the set of criteria that require COVID testing, 13 symptoms/indicators in total have been identified. These include breathlessness, cough, sore throat, nasal discharge, sputum, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, haemoptysis (coughing up of blood), body ache, and chest pain.
A patient showing any of the above mentioned symptoms can sign up for COVID-19 testing.
The US national public health institute the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had in early May incorporated “a new loss of taste or smell” in the list of COVID-19 symptoms.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s revised testing strategy for COVID-19 issued on May 18, all returnees and migrants with symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI) are to be tested within seven days of the onset of the trails.
All hospitalised patients who develop ILI symptoms and frontline workers involved in containment and mitigation of COVID-19 having such symptoms will also be tested for COVID-19 through the RT-PCR test, it said, adding asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case has to be tested once between day five and 10 of coming in contact.
Symptomatic ILI patients living in coronavirus hotspots or containment zones, all patients of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), symptomatic healthcare workers also are eligible for testing as per the guidelines.
(With inputs from agencies)