According to the researchers, the findings, in agreement with other evidence of early Covid-19 spread in Europe, ‘advance the beginning of the outbreak to late autumn 2019’
The novel coronavirus that has killed over 1.5 million people globally was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Experts are, however, still probing the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. A new analysis now suggests that a four-year-old boy in Italy was infected with coronavirus as early as November 2019, about three months before the first case was identified in the country. This suggests that Covid-19 may have been spreading in Italy much before China confirmed the outbreak.
According to the researchers, the findings, in agreement with other evidence of early Covid-19 spread in Europe, “advance the beginning of the outbreak to late autumn 2019”. However, earlier strains also might have been occasionally imported to Italy and other countries in Europe during this period, “manifesting with sporadic cases or small self-limiting clusters,” they argue. “These importations could have been different from the strain that became widespread in Italy during the first months of 2020,” writes the team from the Department of Biomedical Sciences for Health, University of Milan, Italy. The findings have been published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The country office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in China picked up a media statement by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission from their website on cases of “viral pneumonia” in Wuhan in December 2019. On January 9, WHO reported that Chinese authorities have determined that the outbreak is caused by a novel coronavirus.
Official records indicate that Italy’s first two coronavirus cases were recorded on January 30, 2020, when two tourists from China tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Rome. Italy’s first domestic coronavirus case was detected in late February 2020 in Lombardy. The 38-year-old man had no history of possible contacts with positive cases in Italy or abroad. “The first known Covid-19 case in Italy was reported in the town of Codogno in the Lombardy region on February 21, 2020. However, some evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 had been circulating unnoticed for several weeks in Lombardy before the first official detection,” say investigators.
What did the researchers find?
As participants in Italy’s Measles and Rubella Network, a sensitive case-based surveillance system, the team observed in Milan during late autumn 2019 cases of suspected measles in patients who eventually tested negative for measles. “We, therefore, retrospectively explored a possible etiologic involvement of SARS-CoV-2 in these non-measles-linked rash cases,” they explain.
The investigators analyzed swabs specimens collected during September 2019-February 2020 from 39 consenting patients.. Brinkwire Brief News.