Doctors at the Paris hospital said they had found evidence that one patient treated in December was infected with Covid-19. If verified, these findings will show that the virus had circulated in Europe at that time – long before the first known case was diagnosed in France or an Italian hotspot.
“Covid-19 had spread in France at the end of December 2019, a month before the country’s first official cases,” the team wrote at the Paris Hospital Groupe Hospitalier in Saint-Denis in a study published Sunday in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents. .
The first official Covid-19 report in France was reported on January 24, on two people who had a history of travel to Wuhan, China.
Intensive care specialist Dr. Yves Cohen and his colleagues at the hospital wrote that they decided to check the patient’s previous records, in case the virus had spread undetected.
The French team observed people who were hospitalized with flu-like illness between 2 December and 16 January who were not diagnosed with influenza in the end. They tested frozen samples from these patients for coronavirus.
The man had never been to China, and one of his children was also sick, too, the team reported.
“Identifying the first infected patient is of great epidemiological interest because it has dramatically changed our knowledge of SARS-COV-2 and its spread in the country. In addition, the lack of connection with China and the recent lack of travel indicate that the disease has spread among the French population at the end of December, 2019, “they wrote.
Europe does not start reporting coronavirus cases until January. In Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus, the first two cases were reported on January 31, in two Chinese tourists in Rome. Transmissions of the first known community were recorded at the end of February in Codogno, northern Italy.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect when this research was published online.