However, it turns out that this loss of the sense of smell, known as anosmia, occurs for two very different reasons. Since the sense of taste is closely linked to the sense of smell, both take a steep dive during the plugged-up phase of an illness. When it comes to COVID-19, researchers have recently uncovered the surprising reason for anosmia as one of the earliest symptoms of infection. Rather than congestion, as with a cold or the flu, the loss of smell in people with COVID-19 occurs due to how the virus affects the nervous system. The good news is that for most patients, recovery from COVID-19 includes a return of their sense of smell.