The novel coronavirus may have reached Europe much earlier than originally thought.
Dr. Yves Cohen, an intensive care chief in Paris, told French news channel BFMTV during a live interview Sunday that they had retrospectively identified a positive case at Jean-Verdier Hospital in the northeastern Paris suburb of Bondy on Dec. 27. Doctors reanalyzed samples from molecular diagnostic tests of 24 patients in December and January who were suffering from pneumonia-like illness but had tested negative, Cohen said. Tests for COVID-19 were not being offered at that time.
One of the patient’s samples tested positive for COVID-19. Doctors even tested the sample twice to be sure, Cohen said.
“We called the patient. He was sick for 15 days and infected his two children, but not his wife,” Cohen told BFMTV. “One wonders if she has not been infected asymptomatically. We cannot go any further, but I think it is up to another institution to carry out the investigations.”
Cohen said the man may be France’s “Patient Zero.” He urged doctors to retest all patient samples that had returned negative for pneumonia.
“Perhaps there are others in other areas,” he added. “The virus was probably circulating (at that time).”
France reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the southwestern city of Bordeaux on Jan. 24. It was also the first reported case in Europe.
With nearly 169,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and almost 25,000 deaths, France is one of the worst-affected countries in the coronavirus pandemic, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The European country has been on a nationwide lockdown since March 17, though the French government plans to gradually ease restrictions from May 11.