French doctors have found the first case of COVID-19 in France which is weeks earlier than was previously thought. A patient diagnosed with pneumonia near Paris on 27 December actually had the coronavirus, his doctor has said. Even Italian doctors are investigating whether Coronavirus has been circulating in Europe since early December.
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There’s new evidence that the coronavirus may have been in France weeks earlier than was previously thought.
Doctors at a Paris hospital say they’ve found evidence that one patient admitted in December was infected with Covid-19. If verified, this finding would show that the virus was already circulating in Europe at that time — well before the first known cases were diagnosed in France or hotspot Italy.
“Covid-19 was already spreading in France in late December 2019, a month before the official first cases in the country,” the team at Groupe Hospitalier Paris Seine in Saint-Denis wrote in a study published Sunday in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.
The first official reports of Covid-19 in France were reported on Jan. 24, in two people who had a history of travel to Wuhan, China.
Dr Yves Cohen, head of emergency medicine at Avicenne and Jean-Verdier hospitals near Paris, told French broadcaster BFMTV that he recently went over the files of patients admitted with flu-like symptoms in December and January.
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In total he tested the swabs of 14 patients, he said.
“We re-tested the nasal swabs which were conducted at the time in relation to another diagnosis, to try and find traces of coronavirus. Out of 14 patients, one tested positive. We tested it two more times to make sure there was no mistake. And twice, it came back positive.”
Dr Cohen said he had alerted the National Health Agency (ARS), and was urging other virologists to re-test swabs in their hospitals for Covid-19. A full report is due later this week, and will be published by the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, he added.
The French team looked at people admitted to the hospital with flu-like illness between December 2 and January 16 who were not ultimately diagnosed with influenza. They tested frozen samples from those patients for coronavirus.
“One sample was positive taken from a 42 year old man born in Algeria, who lived in France for many years, and worked as a fishmonger,” the team wrote. “His last trip was in Algeria during August 2019.”
The man had not been to China, and one of his children had also been sick, the team reported.
“Identifying the first infected patient is of great epidemiological interest as it changes dramatically our knowledge regarding SARS-COV-2 and its spreading in the country. Moreover, the absence of a link with China and the lack of recent travel suggest that the disease was already spreading among the French population at the end of December, 2019,” they wrote.
Meanwhile, the Italian scientists at Milan University are investigating whether the coronavirus outbreak actually began in Italy in the last quarter of 2019. Milan and Lodi cities of Lombardy administrative region reported a “significant” increase in the number of people hospitalized for pneumonia and flu in October and December of 2019. Even, researchers in the US have also started finding evidence that the virus was infecting and killing people earlier than the country’s first reported cases.
For latest updates on the outbreak check out our Coronavirus Coverage.
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