Texas family without sense of smell escapes house fire

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Sunday, January 17, 2021
Family with COVID-19 couldn't smell smoke to detect house fire
They have COVID-19 and couldn't smell the smoke from their burning home, but a teenage family member could and saved them.

WACO, Texas (KTRK) -- A Texas family suffering the effects of COVID-19 is safe after their home caught fire, and they weren't able to smell the smoke.

Fortunately, a fourth family member, a 17-year-old girl, was able to alert her three relatives and get them to safety.

The one-story home caught fire in Waco Friday morning with four people inside.

Three people at the home where Bianca Rivera lives lost their sense of smell due to the virus and were oblivious to the danger that was consuming the structure. The teen told KWTX-TV she smelled something burning around 2 a.m.

"I started smelling burnt plastic, and that's when I got more alert and ran outside of my room," Rivera told the station. "I couldn't even pass the hallway because it was filled with so much smoke."

"I would just do whatever anyone else would do for their own family," Rivera told KWTX. "I just wanted to get everyone else safe and alive that's all I wanted that's all I wanted was to keep everyone alive. I don't really count myself a hero."

The family members escaped with their lives, but weren't able to save much else. The Red Cross and other relatives are helping the family as they recover from COVID-19 and a destroyed home.

As many as 80% of COVID-19 sufferers experience a loss of smell and researchers at Harvard Medical School said in Aug. 2020 they believe they found the reason.

Coronavirus infects olfactory cells found in the nasal cavity, which support sensory neurons that allow us to smell, not the neurons themselves, researchers said. The condition known as anosmia isn't believed to be permanent, but can last long after the virus has passed.