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COVID-19: Could smell tests be more accurate than temperature checks?

Experts look for other ways to spot sick people before they enter buildings and infect others.

YORK, Pa. — As businesses open back up, many companies are using temperature checks to screen for the novel coronavirus before allowing people to enter the building.  However, some doctors say this way of screening for the virus isn't accurate because research shows people can have Covid-19 with no symptoms at all.  A person could also have a fever for a completely different reason.  For this reason, researchers are looking into what could potentially work better: smell tests.  

A recent study at the Mayo Clinic found that COVID-19 patients are 27 times more likely than non-COVID patients to lose their sense of smell.  In comparison, COVID-19 patients were only 2.6 times more likely to have a fever when compared with non-COVID patients.

Additionally, experts say loss of smell is an earlier sign of Covid-19 than fever. Health and wellness media expert, Dr. David Geier, agrees.

"The cells that line your nasal cavity are infected by the corona virus early in the disease process before your body mounts an immune response that causes fever.  Studies show that scratch and sniff cards can identify nearly 80 percent of COVID-19 patients who have lost their sense of smell, " Dr. Geier said.

However,  other studies showed that up to 60 percent of COVID-19 patients had a normal sense of smell.  Still, many experts agree that as the pandemic continues, including smell tests with temperature checks wouldn't be a bad idea.

If you're wondering how a smell test would work, it could end up being as simple as giving people a scratch and sniff card with different scents on it and asking them to identify them. If they passed, they could then proceed to enter the building.

FOX43 did reach out to the Pennsylvania Department of Health to hear their thoughts. They said their teams had not yet seen the studies to verify, but they are looking into it.