The coronavirus was already infecting patients in Europe as early as December, new research from France has shown. Doctors at Avencenne Hospital in Bobigny, in the suburbs of Paris, made the shocking discovery after re-examining samples of a pneumonia patient taken to their hospital in December. Asked about the importance of the discovery, head of Avencenne’s intensive care unit Dr Yves Cohen told BBC Newsday: “It tells us that the virus existed in France in December.
“This is important because to fight the virus you need to know it’s life-cycle.
“This case will allow us to better understand the evolution of the virus on French soil.”
Dr Cohen said the patient whose samples tested positive for COVID-19 had been taken to hospital with pneumonia symptoms.
The French physician insisted further research will need to be carried out as he was asked whether a connection could be made between the newly discovered case and the original epicentre of the virus in Wuhan, China.
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Dr Cohen continued: “As for now, we cannot tell.
“I think further investigation will find people caught the virus after being in contact with employees from that sushi department, or in connection with Wuhan could be made.”
Dr Cohen and his team looked at patients admitted to Avencenne between December 2 and January in a bid to find out whether COVID-19 had spread undetected before being officially recognised in French patients.
Discussing their findings in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, the team said: “One sample was positive taken from a 42-year-old man born in Algeria, who lived in France for many years and worked as a fishmonger.
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“His last trip was in Algeria during August 2019.”
The comments have sparked claims from thousands of Britons they had coronvirus symptoms last year.
One wrote on Twitter: “Many have been saying this for months.
“The science is just catching up with the truth as it so often has had to do throughout history.”
Another said: “My wife and I lost two friends earlier this year to a vicious Pneumonia. Both were Rapidly Attacked. One had a Stroke. We both think the Coronavirus was here long before we knew it.
“France claims a case in December.”
And a third said: “I still say we (family), and many others I know or have heard about, had this in December 2019.”
The French carrier was not believed to have travelled to China before he became sick and one of his children also showed symptoms but both had tested negative to the common flu when they sought medical help in December.
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The study continued: “Identifying the first infected patient is of great epidemiological interest as it changes dramatically our knowledge regarding SARS-COV-2 and its spreading in the country.
“Moreover, the absence of a link with China and the lack of recent travel suggest that the disease was already spreading among the French population at the end of December, 2019.”
Dr Cohen reassured the COVID-19 patient is in “good health and has fully recovered” since being first diagnosed.
Initial research suggests the man could have caught the virus from his wife, who works at a fish counter in a supermarket next to a sushi stand.
News of early cases of coronavirus in December could significantly affect the death toll in France and in Europe.
Most countries began to count the victims after national governments officially recognised the arrival of the virus in their countries.
France is currently the fifth worst-affected country in the whole world, with Italy, the UK and Spain in the leas immediately after the United States.
Over 24,000 people have died in France since the outbreak was officially recognised in January but the number may soon be updated should further proof emerge showing members of the public were already infected in December.
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