Photo Credit: NIAID – RML
This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.
Most COVID-19 coronavirus patients present with the typical symptoms of fever, fatigue, dry cough and/or shortness of breath, if they are symptomatic at all. In the past, the average doctor would think of garden-variety influenza, and the average Jewish grandmother haul out a chicken and head for the soup pot.
Of course, you’d still have to be tested to confirm the diagnosis. But ultimately either that would confirm your suspicions, or not.
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For those who are “asymptomatic,” however, it’s not that simple anymore – not that it’s been any cakewalk since last December either.
Doctors are beginning to give credence to a host of new symptoms that patients are describing that have nothing to do with the traditional, “flu-like” profile listed up to this point.
Few have been discussed in the medical literature, but some are gaining traction on medical social media, according to multiple reports in international media.
One of the most common is the loss of smell (anosmia, or “smell blindness”) and the loss of taste (ageusia) – a lack of ability to detect sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness and spiciness.
“There is new evidence for the loss of smell as a symptom of COVID-19 infection,” reported Professor Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, and professor of Rhinology at King’s College London.
“Previously described coronaviruses are thought to account for 10- 15 percent of cases. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that the novel COVID-19 virus would also cause anosmia in infected patients. There is already good evidence from South Korea, China and Italy that significant numbers of patients with proven COVID-19 infection have developed anosmia/hyposmia.”
Similar cases were reported in Iran, the US, France and northern Italy, she wrote, adding that she personally had seen four patients, “all under 40, and otherwise asymptomatic except for the recent onset of anosmia.”
Hopkins lamented that these patients “may be some of the hitherto hidden carriers that have facilitated the rapid spread of COVID-19” and warned that because they were asymptomatic, “Unfortunately these patients do not meet current criteria for testing or self-isolation.”
The symptoms were also reported in an article entitled, “Anosmia and ageusia are emerging as symptoms in patients with COVID-19: What does the current evidence say?” published April 3 in the ecancermedicalscience internet journal.
The researchers noted, “There have been several reports noting anosmia and ageusia as possible symptoms of COVID-19.”
The symptoms were also reported anecdotally among many patients who contracted the virus in the Brooklyn, New York Jewish neighborhood of Crown Heights.
French Dermatologists Warn of Skin Rash
Another symptom that has emerged as a possible red flag for COVID-19 is the development of an otherwise unexplained skin rash that resembles hives, with persistent redness.
The red swellings look similar to mosquito bites, the kind of welts that are similar to frostbite, as French dermatologists described in a report published last week in Le Figaro.
The National Union of Dermatologists Venereologists (SNDV) said in a release that it organized a “WhatsApp group of more than 400 dermatologists (liberal and hospital-university)” who work in the private sector and/or for the public healthcare system in France, and who highlighted skin lesions” that may or may not be associated with other signs of COVID-19.
“These are acrosyndromes (appearance of pseudo-frostbite of the extremities), sudden appearance of persistent, sometimes painful redness, and lesions of temporary urticarial,” the SNDV details, which it considers “important for patients who have problems of this type to consult a dermatologist,” from a distance or not, as necessary.
“Analysis of the many cases reported to SNDV shows that these manifestations can be associated” with the coronavirus, the dermatologists said.
“We are alerting the public and the medical profession in order to detect these potentially contagious patients as quickly as possible (without necessarily having respiratory signs),” the SNDV release concluded.
French Health Director-General Jérôme Salomon said that so far there has been no published research on the dermatological symptoms he has seen. However, Salomon, an infectious diseases physician, cautioned, “not everything is known about the novel coronavirus, and we’re learning new things every day.”
Some People Report Fizzing, Burning, Hypersensitive Skin
Some COVID-19 patients report their skin feels like it is “burning” – that it is so sensitive, they require aloe gel used for sunburn in order to cool and soothe it. Activist Tarana Burke (#MeToo movement founder) wrote in a tweet that her partner had experienced the burning while struggling with the virus, so severely that “we literally used aloe gel for sunburn to soothe it.”
In addition, patients are also reporting a “buzzing” or “fizzing” sensation throughout their bodies while fighting the virus along with other symptoms.
The symptom produces a strange “buzzing” sensation according to the New York Post, which reported that doctors quoted patients who described it as “an electric feeling on my skin.”
Doctors were quoted by The Post as saying it might be part of ‘an autoimmune response that effects (sic) patients’ nervous system.’
Dr. Daniel Griffin, chief of infectious disease at ProHealth Care Associates, told The Post, “Clearly it’s been identified but we’re just not sure yet how widespread it is.”
Emerging Concerns About ‘Reactivation’ vs ‘Reinfection’
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Israelis Monday night to continue to comply with Health Ministry restrictions, as difficult as they might be, particularly in light of new reports emerging from southeast Asia indicating there may be a chance the COVID-19 novel coronavirus may return to strike more than once.
Netanyahu warned of information coming out of South Korea describing cases of the virus in which those who recovered from the virus became “re-infected.”
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) had announced on Saturday that it has launched an investigation into the matter.
Earlier this week South Korea’s Center for Disease Control, announced that 91 patients who had tested positive, then were cleared after two negative tests 24 hours apart, tested positive once again just prior to being discharged from the hospital. Jeong Eun-Kyeong, director-general of the Korean CDC, said the agency will conduct an intensive study of the cases of patients who have become re-infected.
“We are aware of these reports of individuals who have tested negative for COVID-19 using PCR [polymerase chain reaction] testing and then after some days testing positive again,” the WHO told Reuters and other international media in a statement.
“We are closely liaising with our clinical experts and working hard to get more information on those individual cases. It is important to make sure that when samples are collected for testing on suspected patients, procedures are followed properly,” a WHO spokesperson told Reuters.
Jeong said in a news briefing on Monday that his agency is “putting more weight on reactivation as the possible cause,” according to a report published by Bloomberg.
The Korean CDC will carry out an indepth epidemiological study into all the cases that have returned to a positive status, he said.
Doctors say it’s too soon to be able to tell whether someone can be reinfected with the virus, or whether the virus remains dormant in one’s system and simply reactivates in response to a trigger – similar to the way a virus like Herpes Simplex, or Epstein-Barr might.
If reactivation is the case, it could mean once someone is sick with COVID-19, the virus may become a quiet guest in one’s system permanently.