The Nigerian government has recognised the sudden loss of the senses of taste and smell as a valid symptom of COVID-19.
“If you feel you are having sudden loss of the senses of taste and smell, you should know it’s now a common symptom of COVID,” Chikwe Ihekweazu, the head of Nigeria’s Infectious Disease agency, NCDC, said during Thursday’s President Task Force Meeting on COVID-19 pandemic.
“These symptoms have been recognised globally as that of COVID-19; there are very few other diseases that would cause a sudden loss of smell and taste especially in normally otherwise healthy people,” the official noted.
This is coming several weeks after many Nigerians took to social media to complain of losing their senses of smell and taste especially during or after treating a fever.
PREMIUM TIMES also reported how the increasing complaints triggered a coronavirus scare among Nigerians especially because there was no official response from health authorities about the symptoms.
On Monday, the NCDC updated its case definition of common symptoms of COVID-19 to include “sudden loss of sense of smell and or taste”.
“A sudden loss of taste and smell with fever, headache or runny nose may be #COVID19. Please do not ignore these symptoms. Call your state hotline immediately to arrange for a test,” the NCDC twitted on its official handle.
During Thursday’s PTF meeting, the NCDC boss said the agency has been following the complaints about the strange symptoms trending on social media.
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“Over the past few weeks, there have been a lot of discussions over the loss of smell and taste as symptoms of COVID-19.
“It is most likely this is linked with an increasing incidence of COVID-19 so we would expect that this should also lead to increased presentation at clinical facilities and increased testing.
“If you feel you are losing your sense of smell or taste, you should be presenting yourself for testing in the clinical facilities to determine whether or not you have COVID-19.
“I will also like to advise. Face shields are great but they should be used in addition to face masks and not in place of face masks. We are learning everyday, new technologies is emerging.”
Slow testing capacity
Meanwhile, health experts have questioned the government’s ability to increase its testing capacity and also include those having these new symptoms.
On April 28, the Nigerian government announced its target of testing at least two million people within the next three months.
Almost halfway into the ambitious 90 days’ target, the country is yet to cover 10 per cent of the two million.
Nigeria still conducts only about 900 to 1,400 tests per day across 26 molecular laboratories in the country, a source confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES.
As of June 22, Nigeria has conducted a little over 115,760 tests of its estimated 200 million population and found more than 20, 000 infected persons. Out of these, over 7,000 have been treated and discharged and over 500 fatalities recorded.