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.
Intensive care specialist Dr. Yves Cohen and his hospital colleagues wrote that they decided to check the records of earlier patients, in case the virus had been spreading undetected.
The French team looked at people admitted to the hospital with flu-like illnesses between Dec. 2 and Jan. 16 who were not subsequently diagnosed with influenza. The doctors re-tested samples stored in a freezer for coronavirus.
One sample, taken from a 42-year-old man born in Algeria, who lived in France, tested positive. “His last trip was in Algeria during August 2019,” they wrote. The man had not been to China, and one of his children had also been sick, the team reported.
CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect the report from the Paris hospital.