An eventer who is recovering from coronavirus is urging others to look out for a newly recognised symptom that could be a strong indicator they are carrying the illness.
Panda Christie, her husband, her mother and her stepfather all started showing symptoms of Covid-19 following a celebration for her birthday two weeks ago.
She told H&H that while their symptoms had differed slightly — they had variations on fever, aches and pains, exhaustion and a cough — all of them had suffered a sustained loss of taste and smell.
“I have spoken to my doctor and he said that although people have been slow to realise, loss of smell is now being recognised as a coronavirus symptom, and scientists are working to understand it better,” said Panda, who is hoping she will have confirmation she was suffering from the virus once an antibody test becomes available.
“It’s quite distinctive as it’s not the same as when you lose your sense of smell when you have a cold because your nose is blocked — a blocked nose hasn’t been a symptom.”
She added that neither her sense of smell nor taste had returned after nine days, although her doctor had reassured her that it was restored in 90% of cases.
“I thought it was really important to let people know as it could save a few lives,” added Panda, who used to event at four-star (now five-star) level but now dedicates most of her time to running a private members’ network called Grapevine.
“I sent an email about it out to the network and I had around 180 replies from people, saying things like ‘I had a bad headache for a couple of days last week and completely lost my sense of smell’ — they didn’t realise they could be carrying it and that it is a characteristic of that virus.”
Panda said that before they were symptomatic, the family had attended the Turf Club at Cheltenham races, and she was aware of a number of people at Cheltenham who had subsequently been diagnosed with Covid-19.
“We’d had a dinner party and were all a bit hungover and had then gone on to the racing at Cheltenham together,” she said.
“It turned out that what my stepfather [trainer Hughie Morrison] thought was a hangover started turning into a temperature. Two days later my mother also went down with symptoms and then on the Monday I started feeling ill.”
Panda, who now competes just one horse, said she was “still not feeling 100%” after 10 days.
“I find I am tiring easily,” she said. “Other people haven’t been quite as lucky though and I know of two who have been in hospital with pneumonia.”
ENT UK, the professional membership body of Britain’s ear, nose and throat surgeons, circulated advice to Public Health England concerning anosmia — the loss of sense of smell — as a Covid-19 symptom last week.
They said there was “good evidence from South Korea, China and Italy that significant numbers of patients with proven Covid-19 infection have developed anosmia/hyposmia” and that in Germany it was reported as a symptom in more than two in three confirmed cases.
‘It’s a small gesture that we hope will make a positive difference’
The British Equestrian Federation issued an update today (27 March)
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“In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30% of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases.
In addition, there have been a rapidly growing number of reports of a significant increase in the number of patients presenting with anosmia in the absence of other symptoms – this has been widely shared on medical discussion boards by surgeons from all regions managing a high incidence of cases,” they added.
While anosmia is quite a common post-viral symptom, they believe it could “potentially be used as a screening tool to help identify otherwise asymptomatic patients, who could then be better instructed on self-isolation”.
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