For a while now, the loss of smell and taste has been the best indication that someone had been infected with COVID-19 and while losing two of their senses is not pleasant for anyone, it was what really differentiated an infection with COVID from the common cold of the flu for many people without actually getting tested.
This particular symptom, of course, led many who experienced it to be more willing to enter quarantine, doing their best not to transmit the virus to other people as well since there was no more uncertainly on whether they had COVID or just the common cold.
However, in light of the omicron variant becoming dominant, it appears that the loss of taste and smell has gone from the most recognized symptom of COVID, and a really common one, to being rather rare!
Until not too long ago, many would report having issues sensing even stronger scents such as perfume or being unable to taste bitter, sweet or even spicy foods.
The level to which their senses would diminish would definitely be beyond any symptoms usually associated with having a simple cold.
Back in 2020, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and King’s College London learned that the loss of smell and taste was the clearest indicator that one had been infected with COVID.
This conclusion was based on a massive study that involved no less than 2.6 million people.
But now that the omicron strain is here, the usual symptoms associated with COVID are less common!
Instead, symptoms also generally associated with the common cold such as sneezing, having a runny nose and a sore throat, are much more dominant, especially when it comes to vaccinated patients!
Virologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Andy Pekosz, told Insider that “Loss of smell was something many people used to report with COVID-19 symptom onset. With Omicron, that doesn’t seem to be reported much at all, much more talk about coughs and scratchy throats with Omicron than we saw with other variant infections previously.”
The newest data from the Zoe COVID Symptom Study – which uses a special app smartphone users all over the UK use to log their symptoms in every day – shows that not even 20 percent of people who tested positive for the virus experienced a loss of smell or taste.
While the data itself does not differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients, it is worth mentioning that about 70 percent of the UK population has received at least two doses of the vaccine.
Furthermore, Tim Spector, the study’s main investigator posted on Twitter that Zoe’s list of COVID-19 symptoms places “loss of smell” at number 17, which is categorized as “relatively rare.”
This is a significant drop from number 6, where it ranked only last summer in June when the Delta variant was still the dominant strain in the UK.
Furthermore, back in March, before the Delta variant was found and when vaccines were widely available, no less than 60 percent of people on the Zoe app with ages between 16 and 65, reported the loss of taste and smell at a point after their infection and before recovering.
And the UK is not the only country where this massive shift is happening!
Other countries are also starting to notice this same pattern with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report from last month sharing that out of the first 43 omicron cases identified in the United States, only 3 experienced loss of smell or taste.
Furthermore, after a Christmas party outbreak that happened in Norway, only 23 percent of the people infected experienced reduced taste and 12 percent experienced reduced smell.
Those were surprisingly small percentages, especially when compared to the 83 percent who reported experiencing a cough and the 78 percent who had a stuffy or runny nose – symptoms most often linked to the common cold.
It has to also be noted that a majority of those infected at the gathering had been fully vaccinated.