Why France Is on a Mission to Find Patient Zero
Scientists say the virus may have been in the country much earlier than anyone thought
Researchers in the city of Colmar in northeastern France recently announced they identified two X-rays from November 16 and November 18, 2019, that show symptoms they say are consistent with the coronavirus. The scans were shared with NBC News, and you can see them here.
The cases are not yet confirmed, but it’s the second group of scientists in the country to look for very early cases of Covid-19. France officially announced it had its first cases of Covid-19 in late January.
Another group of researchers in Paris recently confirmed there was a case of the coronavirus on December 27, 2019. This is so far the earliest known case of Covid-19 in Europe (unless the November cases are confirmed). The case was found when a hospital began retesting samples from people with pneumonia they had seen in December and January.
That person, a man, survived the disease. Yves Cohen, head of resuscitation at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals in the northern suburbs of Paris, told reporters: “He was sick for 15 days and infected his two children, but not his wife, who works in a supermarket. He was amazed, he didn’t understand how he had been infected. We put the puzzle together, and he had not made any trips. The only contact that he had was with his wife.”
What’s the point of finding early cases or identifying patient zero? It’s helpful for scientists to understand when and how the coronavirus started spreading in their country or city. It provides insights into the current outbreak and could aid in preventing a future outbreak of Covid-19 or another disease.
“We can only manage the future if we understand the past,” Dr. Michel Schmitt of Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Colmar, who led the new X-ray research, told NBC News. “Today, we clearly do not understand this outbreak.”
If the November cases are confirmed, it would mean the virus was spreading in Europe a full two months before France declared it had Covid-19 cases and even before Wuhan, China confirmed the outbreak.
Read more below.
New evidence in race to find France's COVID-19 'patient zero'
PARIS - French doctors may have made a breakthrough in the race to establish where and when the coronavirus pandemic…