New evidence suggests the coronavirus was likely spreading in the US and France as early as December

  • New evidence suggests that the coronavirus was spreading around the globe as early as December.
  • In Florida, at least 170 COVID-19 patients reported symptoms from December 31 to February 29, according to the Miami Herald.
  • In France, a man arrived at a hospital outside Paris coughing up blood in late December. His sample later tested positive for the coronavirus.

New evidence from Florida and France suggests that the coronavirus had already spread out of Wuhan, China, and begun traveling across the globe as early as December.

The findings come as researchers test samples from patients with respiratory illnesses who went to hospitals in December, January, and February. The results suggest the virus could have begun spreading through communities outside China weeks earlier than previously realized.

“It’s really important that we look further into this,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 technical lead, said in a press briefing on Wednesday. “Some countries may look backwards and may look at some of those samples that were stored in January or in December and may retest those. So it’s possible that we may see some of those samples testing positive for COVID-19.”

How viruses like the coronavirus mutate

Genetic mutations aren’t as scary as they sound. With RNA viruses, like the one that causes COVID-19, they’re happening constantly — basically every time it replicates. But not all mutations stick, and not all the ones that stick are bad. In fact, mutations are actually necessary for tracking and containing COVID-19. Here’s why you shouldn’t be worried when you hear about them.

A new genetic analysis lends further credence to an earlier timeline of spread. The study, from scientists at University College London’s Genetics Institute, found that most of the virus’s genetic mutations (which so far don’t have known effects on symptoms or contagiousness) exist in all the hardest-hit countries.

This suggests worldwide spread likely began “from extremely early on in the pandemic,” the researchers wrote. Their work was published Tuesday in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution.

Andrew Brouwer, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan, told Business Insider that identifying early patients in each country or state helps epidemiologists “reconstruct the history of the outbreak.”

Source: Business Insider



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