About half of those who got infected with COVID-19 in the first wave of infections may have a permanent change to their sense of smell.

The news: A new preliminary study — which is available on a preprint server ahead of peer review — from Sweden found that the loss of smell didn’t return for a certain group of people.

  • Karolinska Institute in Stockholm tested 100 people who got COVID-19 in the first wave of infections way back in spring 2020.
  • The scientists found that 4% of people had lost their sense of smell entirely 18 months after COVID-19 recovery.
  • However, “a third had a reduced ability to detect odors, and nearly half complained of parosmia, where the sense of smell is distorted,” according to The Guardian.
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The bottom line: About 65% of people who recovered from COVID-19 had either loss of smell, reduced sense of smell or smell distortions 18 months after infection, according to the study.

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Yes, but: The loss of sense of smell has become less of a symptom with the omicron variant, as I reported for the Deseret News.

  • Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and vaccinologist at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in North Carolina, told NBC News that she hasn’t seen the loss of taste or smell in recent omicron variant patients.
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