4 May 2020

What's up with weird Covid-19 symptoms?

9:42 pm on 4 May 2020

Scientific studies have reported some unusual symptoms from Covid-19 but respiratory physician and Otago Medical School senior lecturer Michael Maze says that's actually not so unusual after all.

Medical staff perform a test for the COVID-19 coronavirus on a driver at a drive-through testing site in a Melbourne carpark on May 1, 2020.

Medical staff perform a test for Covid-19 on a driver at a drive-through testing site in Melbourne. Photo: AFP

The symptoms range from skin rashes and digestive problems to more serious symptoms like strokes.

Dr Maze said it was important to note that most of these symptoms were incredibly rare, and some may not be linked to Covid-19 at all.

The most common of the uncommon symptoms was a loss of smell and taste, Dr Maze said.

"To some people, of course, it makes sense that we lose our sense of smell and taste and we're probably all familiar with that when we get the flu ... but the thing that's a bit different about the coronavirus is that even in that group of people that don't get that classic blocked up, clogged up sinus area a large portion of them still manage to lose their sense of smell and their sense of taste."

Dr Maze said he had heard of overseas reports of what appeared to be bunions appearing on toes of people with Covid-19.

He said more investigation was needed.

"At this stage I'd say ... my understanding is it's a pretty uncommon thing ... it'll be the same thing for some of the other rashes being described."

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP

It wasn't uncommon for a virus to cause a wide range of symptoms.

"If we think back to the so-called swine flu... with that virus, diarrhoea, upset stomach were pretty common symptoms."

Other viruses like Zika or Ebola had also affected more than one organ.

"The virus gets into the cells via a particular receptor ... and these are most common in the lungs, in the heart, in the gut and in the kidney, but we are also seeing effects that are quite prominent in organs that don't have a lot of these receptors."

The loss of smell was an example - olfactory nerves did not have a lot of the receptors, he said.

Another example was the reports of people in their 40s and 50s in the United State having strokes related to the Covid-19.

"With these strokes, it appears that there is clots in the reasonably large arteries in the brain and these are people who tested positive for the coronavirus. So there's a thought that perhaps these clots are related to the ... clotting system being turned on by the coronavirus."

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