INTRODUCTION: This study aims to assess the change in internet searches terms related to smell and taste disorders (STDs) during the novel coronavirus-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak and to investigate the relationship between the changes and the daily number of COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in Turkey.
METHODS: Between March 1st, 2019 and April 30th, 2020, the average number of internet searches of the most common 10 key terms related to STDs during the COVID-19 outbreak was compared to the average number of internet searches of those terms in previous months in Turkey. The daily average number of most common 10 key terms based on Google AdWords (GA) and the relative search volume (RSV) of most searched two terms (inability to smell and inability to taste) related to STDs based on Google trends (GT) were compared with the change in the daily number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Turkey.
RESULTS: The average number of internet searches of 10 key terms between March and April 2020 increased approximately six times from both the average number of the same terms in the previous 10 months and between March and April 2019 months period (p<0.001). We identified a strong correlation between the daily numerical changes of key terms and the increase in the number of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths (r=0.810 and r=0.783, respectively; p<0.001). There was a strong correlation between the RSV surges of two terms (inability to smell and inability to taste) and the increase in the daily number of cases and deaths during the outbreak in Turkey (p<0.001).
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: The COVID-19 in Turkey led to an increase in internet searches terms related to STDs. This increase was strongly correlated with the increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Turkey.