PARIS – May 16, 2020 – In what would mark a massive shift in the timeline of coronavirus spread, French researchers believe there is evidence the novel virus may have been in Europe as early as November 2019.
Genetic analysis showed that the dominant types of the viral strains in France belonged to a clade – or group with a common ancestor – that did not come from China or Italy, the earliest hotspot in Europe.
X-rays obtained exclusively by NBC News show two patients with symptoms in their lungs consistent with the novel coronavirus dated November 16 and November 18, months before COVID-19 was believed to be spreading in the country.
Researchers from Colmar, France, announced the X-rays last week and are working to confirm whether the patients had coronavirus. France had originally believed its first case to have been January 24. The study comes in conjunction with a study by other French scientists who discovered last week that a coronavirus patient had been treated in the country in December.
The doctors from the Groupe Hospitalier Paris Seine in Saint-Denis stated a sample taken from a 42-year-old fishmonger admitted to the emergency room on December 27 had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Similarly, the US recently discovered coronavirus had spread among citizens earlier than previously expected when a medical examiner’s report reclassified a California woman’s death in February as being due to COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — three weeks prior to what was originally believed to be the first US coronavirus death.
The earlier cases suggest the virus was spreading before it was disclosed by Chinese officials, who first confirmed the unknown illness was spreading on December 31. It was officially labeled a novel coronavirus on January 7.