COVID-19 came into discussion in December last year, but new evidence suggests that the virus may have began several months earlier.
December 31st will mark the anniversary of the first official case of Coronavirus, however, between then and now, we have learned much about the origin of the virus and it seems its place of origin may not have been Wuhan.
Before the official announcement, almost a year ago, between November and December, the Chinese government had already recorded 60 cases of Covid-19 (before it had its current name), and an investigation by the Lancet revealed that 13 of the official known cases were not linked to the Wuhan animal market whatsoever, including the first official case, a 55 year-old from Hubei.
But questions on the origin and spread of Corona don’t stop in China. In the US, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) found antibodies for the virus in blood donation samples collected by the American Red Cross in nine different states, dating back to December, suggesting that COVID-19 was already roaming other continents before the Wuhan outbreak at the end of 2019.
Even earlier than December, in Italy, 23 blood sample analysis tested positive for antibodies for Corona, dating back as early as September 2019, as well as another 27 samples in October.
As much as antibody analysis may not be a perfect way to trace the virus’s “footsteps”, as it may produce false positive results, scientists have previously and successfully used this method to discover the origins of SARS and MERS.
In addition to the blood sample analysis, these findings are backed up by various sewage sample analyses. Most major cities collect and freeze sewage samples from time to time, which gives them important data on their citizens – about their health, food habits, drug usage, etc. In Spain, the University of Barcelona conducted a study that found traces of Covid-19 in their sewage system, dating all the way back to March 2019, turning the chronology of the virus’ movements upside-down. Sewage sample analysis also found traces of Covid-19 pre-December 31st 2019, in France, Italy and Brazil.
But how would the virus have travelled the world without raising any alarm bells? One hypothesis is that the disease, since it was unknown, might have been misdiagnosed as something else many times before medical professionals figured out what they were dealing with. British epidemiologist, Tom Jefferson, from Oxford University, says that another possibility might be that the Covid-19 virus has been among us for a long time, dormant, and it would have been awakened by environmental triggers.
These studies and investigations raise more questions than they provide answers. There is no doubt that the outbreak began in Wuhan – the first super-spreader occasion of them all – but there are still too many unknown elements to precisely determine exactly where and when it all started.