Epidemiologists Answer Your Latest Questions About The Coronavirus Pandemic

May 7, 2020

A new report considers evidence that possibly suggests the coronavirus was circulating outside of China as early as late last year. We talk to epidemiologists about how that changes what we know about the virus.


Bill Hanage, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and faculty member in the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (@BillHanage)

Tara C. Smith, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Kent State University. (@aetiology)

Angela Rasmussen, Ph.D., associate research scientist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. (@angie_rasmussen)

From The Reading List

New York Times: “New Report Says Coronavirus May Have Made Early Appearance in France” — “Weeks before Chinese authorities acknowledged that the coronavirus could be transmitted by humans, and nearly a month before the first officially recorded cases in Europe, a 42-year-old fishmonger showed up at a hospital in suburban Paris coughing, feverish and having trouble breathing. It was Dec. 27.”

Here & Now: “Models Show ‘Hidden Outbreak’ Spread Weeks Before U.S. Took Action To Slow The Coronavirus” — “New research suggests the coronavirus started spreading in the U.S. weeks before public officials previously thought.”

Tampa Bay Times: “Coronavirus was in Florida before we knew it” — “It was March 1 when Florida announced its first two cases of the novel coronavirus, a 29-year-old Hillsborough County woman who had traveled to Italy and a 64-year-old Manatee County man. But buried in data recently published by the Florida health department is an intriguing revelation: The spread of COVID-19 in Florida likely began in January, if not earlier.”

Wall Street Journal: “The Search Is On for America’s Earliest Coronavirus Deaths” — “The first known death caused by the new coronavirus in Chicago occurred in mid-March. But the medical examiner’s office in Cook County, which includes the city, now plans on poring over records of much earlier cases in search of evidence that people may have died from Covid-19 as far back as November.”

The Local: “Coronavirus may have arrived in Sweden in November: Public Health Agency” — “It’s likely that there were individual cases of coronavirus in Sweden as early as November 2019, according to the Public Health Agency, but the country is not currently working to trace the earliest cases.”

Associated Press: “French doctors: First virus case may have been in December” — “French scientists say they may have identified a possible case of the new coronavirus dating back to December — about a month before the first cases were officially confirmed in Europe.”

BBC: “Coronavirus: France’s first known case ‘was in December’” — “A patient treated in a hospital near Paris on 27 December for suspected pneumonia actually had the coronavirus, his doctor has said.”

Science Direct: “SARS-COV-2 was already spreading in France in late December 2019” — “After its onset in December 2019 in China, the new coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) spreads widely in several countries, causing COVID-19 illness. World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. France reported the first cases of SARS-COV-2 related infection on January 24, 2020. Both cases had a history of travel to Wuhan.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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