Covid-19 cases found in US in 2019, weeks before China
Testing has found Covid-19 infections in the US in December 2019, according to a study, providing further evidence indicating the coronavirus was spreading globally weeks before the first cases were reported in China.
The study published Monday identified 106 infections from 7,389 blood samples collected from donors in nine US states between Dec. 13 and Jan. 17. The samples, collected by the American Red Cross, were sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing to detect if there were antibodies against the virus.
“The findings of this report suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the US in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized,” the paper said.
Reports of a mysterious pneumonia spreading in Wuhan, China, first emerged in late December 2019. After multiplying rapidly throughout the city in the following weeks, the disease spread across the globe, with the first US case emerging on Jan. 19.
The revelations in the paper by researchers from the CDC reinforce the growing understanding that the coronavirus was silently circulating worldwide earlier than known, and could re-ignite debate over the origins of the pandemic.
It’s not the first evidence showing the virus could have existed or infected people outside China before 2020. A patient in France was found to have contracted the virus after being hospitalized with flu-like symptoms at the end of December, contradicting official statistics showing Covid-19 reached the country from people returning from Wuhan at the end of January.
The CDC study indicated there were isolated infections in the western part of the US in mid-December. Antibodies were also found in early January in other states before the virus was known to have been introduced to those places.
The scientists indicated it’s unlikely that the antibodies developed to curb other coronaviruses, as 84 samples were found to have neutralizing activity specific to SARS-CoV-2.
They also noted it wasn’t possible to determine the magnitude of infections on a state or national level based on the samples, or whether the cases were locally transmitted or travel-related.
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- The embassy had distributed a "demonstration alert" to US citizens in Russia recommending they avoid protests. The embassy said Saturday it was following the rallies, adding that Washington supported "the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression."
- The streets of the little Alpine town that welcomed around 3,000 business chiefs, political thinkers, and state leaders for last year's annual meeting lie deserted. Discussions have moved online, starting Monday, and Covid-19 restrictions are also keeping regular tourists away.
- Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Friday that approval has been granted to SII, to supply vaccines to the country. The approval comes amid growing concerns that the 1.5 million vaccine doses to be shipped to South Africa in the next few weeks had not been approved by the local regulator.