UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students, faculty, staff and others visiting well-traveled areas of Penn State campuses across the state may have noticed or received postcards with a "peel-and-sniff" area prompting them to detect and identify a particular aroma. If their olfactory senses fail them, they may be infected with COVID-19.
The cards are part of a public awareness campaign spearheaded by sensory researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences' food science department. The goal is to help people quickly identify possible COVID-19 infections so they can avoid potential spread of the coronavirus by isolating, seeking testing and consulting a health care provider.
Research has shown that sudden-onset anosmia, or loss of smell, is one of the most specific symptoms of COVID-19 infection, according to John Hayes, professor of food science and director of the Penn State Sensory Evaluation Center.
"Studies suggest that between half and three quarters of people with COVID-19 abruptly lose their sense of smell, sometimes in the absence of or before other symptoms," Hayes said. "We hope these cards will encourage people to check for sudden smell loss, which should help identify otherwise asymptomatic or presymptomatic people more quickly."
Hayes noted that the postcards are not needed to check your sense of smell. "People can simply smell their coffee, flowers, scented candles or other fragrant household items," he said. "We developed the smell-check cards as a memorable way to share the message and remind people to perform daily smell checks."