French hospital discovers Covid-19 case from December

Henrietta Strickland
May 6, 2020

A French hospital which has retested old samples from pneumonia patients discovered that it treated a man who had COVID-19 as early as 27 December, almost a month before the French government confirmed its first cases.

The 42-year-old man was born in Algeria and had been living in France for several years.

He said his medical team revisited test results of 24 patients with respiratory infections and tested negative for flu and other kinds of coronavirus in December and January, among them a male patient showed positive for Covid-19.

"This gives us a whole new picture on everything, and yes of course, it would be great if all countries who have unspecified cases of pneumonia in the recent months, and even in December, and in even in November, would check them against COVID-19", he said.

He came to the emergency ward on December 27 with a blood-stained cough, headache and a fever that had developed over the previous four days.

"He was sick for 15 days and infected his two children, but not his wife, who works in a supermarket", he said.

He said the test had been repeated a number of times in case of error.

Cohen told French television on Monday it was too early to know if the patient, whose last trip overseas, to Algeria, had been in August 2019, was France's "patient zero".

France confirmed its first cases on January 24.

But "identifying the first infected patient is of great epidemiological interest as it changes dramatically our knowledge regarding SARS-COV-2 (the new coronavirus) and its spreading in the country", he and his co-researchers wrote in the paper detailing their findings.

'We're wondering whether she was asymptomatic, ' said Dr Yves Cohen of the Avicenne hospital where Hammar was treated.

The discovery has raised questions about how many other patients may also have been misdiagnosed with pneumonia, and whether current global numbers represent the true spread of the virus.

"He was amazed. He didn't understand how he had been infected. The virus was probably circulating", he added. We put the puzzle together and he had not made any trips. French health authorities are reportedly carrying out a tracing investigation to see whether he was the first person to bring the the novel virus into the country. "The only contact that he had was with his wife".

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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