Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) today considered it possible that the coronavirus causing COVID-19 was already circulating in France in December, as a medical study this week stated, although they stressed that these premature cases must continue to be studied to reach to conclusions.
“We will need more information and we will have to see what the medical history is, but there could have been a case in France at that early date,” the head of the WHO Department of Emerging Diseases, Maria Van Kerkhove, admitted today at a press conference.
SUSPICIOUS CASE IN PARIS ON DECEMBER 27
Doubts about the true progress of the disease at the end of 2019 have grown in recent days due to the possible positive of a patient who had samples taken on December 27 at the Jean Verdier hospital, on the outskirts of Paris, four days before China reported the existence of the new coronavirus to WHO.
Other studies in the United States also point to patients with possible COVID-19 in that country at the end of last year, despite the fact that the first case outside of China so far confirmed was from January 13 in Thailand.
Van Kerkhove affirmed that at the moment it is better not to make excessive speculations, although he stressed that “it is believed that the first case in Wuhan could have been on December 1, so it is possible that someone from there traveled to another place” and transmitted the coronavirus.
OLD SAMPLES CAN BE REVEALING
The American epidemiologist explained that some countries keep samples collected in the flu season that are now being investigated for old cases of COVID-19 to know the first evolutions of the disease, of which there are still many unknowns about its origin.
In this regard, the director of the WHO for Health Emergencies, Mike Ryan, stressed in the same press conference that isolated cases such as that of France may not have raised the alarm, as did those in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December from last year, when detected in several individuals at the same time.
“Wuhan’s were cases of atypical pneumonia, the tests were negative for normal pathogens and it was understood to be something new and harmful,” Ryan said.
The expert stressed that the investigation of possible old cases is a positive step and encouraged it to continue in other countries, as well as to save samples of patients treated in case they could be useful in future crises like the current one.
“It is prudent to take these samples for later, we hope that there will be other examinations by investigators in the world that detect similar cases,” he stressed, and indicated that in the future the WHO could make a public assessment of these cases.
FOOD MARKETS, AGAIN ON THE SCENE
The man from Paris who was subsequently detected with the coronavirus had not traveled by then, was ill for fifteen days and is believed to have infected his two children, but not his wife.
The wife is suspected to be an asymptomatic patient, to be the source of the contagion in the family and to have contracted the virus in the fishmonger of a supermarket where she works, where there were customers of Chinese origin.
Interestingly, the first cases detected in Wuhan were also related to an area where fish and other foods were sold, the Huanan market, which was closed in early January after the proliferation of contagions in vendors and customers was detected.
The health agency of the Ile de France region, where Paris is located, assured on Monday that it will analyze these cases, which if confirmed would be a month earlier than until now officially considered the first in French territory, reported on January 24 .
Doubts about the initial evolution of the pandemic before it was declared as such arise a few days before the WHO holds its annual assembly, which will begin on May 18 and will be virtual, instead of the current pandemic. as usual at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva.
Given the circumstances, the assembly will be devoted almost entirely to the analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when hundreds of laboratories around the world are working to find vaccines and treatments against a disease that has killed almost 250,000 people. across the planet.