COVID-19 Survivors Reveal A Symptom That Has Refused To Go Away Weeks After They Were Discharged

Many Nigerian COVID-19 survivors treated and discharged from isolation centres say one particular symptom of the infection has refused to go away.

Some of the survivors who spoke with PUNCH HealthWise said they were worried that they are yet to regain their senses of taste and smell weeks after they were discharged.

Narrating her experience to our correspondent weeks after testing negative for the virus, Mrs. Lucy Okechukwu, said,

“Loss of sense of taste and smell is one of the symptoms that I experienced when I tested positive for COVID-19 in June.

“Around May 25, I visited the hospital where we registered for the National Health Insurance Scheme to complain about a consistent headache, slight sore throat, fever, loss of appetite and extreme body weakness.

“A widal and malaria test was conducted and the malaria test came back positive. I was given a dose of injection and antimalarial drugs.

“Three days into the medication, I lost my sense of taste and smell. Every food or edible became tasteless, my environment was odourless, and I was still feeling unwell.

“Just about the same period, my husband also said he could not taste or smell anything. Thereafter, we were sent for COVID-19 test and the result came back positive.

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According to her, during the period, every food and drink became tasteless.

“I do not like chewing raw ginger or garlic, except when cooked but when I was advised to chew, I did and I did not get any taste, not even the peppery taste of ginger.

“On my sense of smell, I love perfumes but I did not perceive the fragrance even when I brought it very close to my nose.

“I also rub the popular balm, Abonliki, inside my nose and I did not sneeze or shed tears as usual”,

she said.

Okechukwu added,

“Those were some of the indicators that got me worried because they were consistent while in the isolation centre.”

“Now that I have recovered, I still experience loss of taste and sense of smell. Though it is gradually returning, it is not 100 per cent yet. Same with my husband.

“I complained recently to my physician about it and he said all we can do is have the patience, as those senses will be fully regained”

Another COVID-19 survivor who preferred anonymity told PUNCH HealthWise that the slow return of his taste and smell senses was a great concern to him, six weeks after he was discharged from the isolation centre.

“Though the doctor had assured me that I would regain my senses of taste and smell, I am worried that it has not happened six weeks after.

“I can say that I have recovered 60 and 50 per cent of my senses of taste and smell respectively.

“I have to focus and concentrate well to taste and smell stuff and that is a concern to me.”

Also, another survivor who pleaded anonymity simply told our correspondent, “I am concerned about the whole thing because it makes me lose appetite.

“Since I recovered from the viral infection in May, I have not fully regained my senses of taste and smell. I just pray that everything will be normal as we were told in the isolation centre”,

he said.

Loss sense of smell in medical term is known as anosmia, while the loss of sense of taste is called dysgeusia. The World Health Organisation had in April listed the loss of smell and taste as some of the symptoms of COVID-19.

Before then, cough and fever had been the major symptoms suggested by WHO for people to self-isolate or get tested. Already, there are reports of temporary loss of smell or taste in Nigeria, since community transmission of COVID-19 began. Experts have expressed the need for expansion of the list of symptoms of COVID-19 to include other symptoms which could also lead to the spread of the virus.

Symptoms of COVID-19 obtained by PUNCH HealthWise from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control website include cough, fever, shivering/shaking (chills), body pain, headache, sore throat, the recent loss of taste or smell and difficulty in breathing/shortness of breath.

However, experts have assured the survivors that they will surely regain their taste and smell senses even though it may not be immediate.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCHHealthWise on the issue, Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Dr. Patrick Dakum said it is expected that the loss of taste and smell senses will clear after the infection is cleared, urging survivors still experiencing the symptom to exercise patience.

Dr. Dakum noted that inflammatory changes on the sensory organs might be responsible for the loss of taste and smell.

The public health physician said,

“It’s not clear why it doesn’t affect all but individual antibody responses may account for the difference.

“These are still being studied. It’s expected that this will clear after the infection is cleared.

“The length of time these symptoms will last is not clearly defined.

“Remember, we are still on a learning curve as far as COVID-19 is concerned. Patients should patiently wait until symptoms clear.”

Director/National Coordinator, Neglected Tropical Diseases Elimination Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, told PUNCH HealthWise that the senses will certainly return once the body system readjusts.

Dr. Anyaike, a consultant public health physician, explained,

“The honest truth is that each disease comes with its own signs and symptoms.

“So, if after a while the disease has finished causing its havoc, the body system will have to readjust and get back to normalcy.

“There is a part of the brain that regulates the senses of smell and taste; so, with time, everything will be readjusted and the system will get back to normalcy.

“It is not going to be a permanent disability. Again, regaining the senses may not be automatic. This is science.

“However, there are some people that theirs will return immediately after recovery.”

The medical epidemiologist also said,

“So, it is not as if it is automatic that when you are infected with COVID-19 and you lose your taste and smell senses, and when you now test negative, they will return immediately, no.

“But they will return. That is certain but it may take a while. Those still experiencing it after recovery should not worry. It’s a body system change.”

On why some COVID-19 patients experience loss of taste and smell and others do not, Dr. Anyaike, said it depends on the immune system.

“Some people can get COVID-19 and they suppress it and get better and they are living their normal lives.

“But some people will get it and get to a clinical-stage. It depends on your body immune system and how your body reacts to infection.

“That is why everyone should protect themselves. COVID-19 comes with various symptoms”,

he added.

The physician advised survivors to try and eat well and build their body immune system. He also enjoined them to consume natural fruits such as orange, watermelon, banana, cucumber, among others, that can boost their appetite and immune system.

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