France’s first coronavirus case may have been in December: researchers

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A study by French scientists which suggests a man was infected with COVID-19 as early as Dec. 27, nearly a month before France confirmed its first cases, could be important in assessing when and where the new coronavirus emerged, experts said.

French researchers led by Yves Cohen, head of resuscitation at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals, retested samples from 24 patients treated in December and January who had tested negative for flu before COVID-19 developed into a pandemic.

The results, published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, showed that one patient — a 42-year-old man born in Algeria, who had lived in France for many years and worked as a fishmonger — was infected with COVID-19 “one month before the first reported cases in our country”, they said.

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The World Health Organization said the results were “not surprising”.

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“It’s also possible there are more early cases to be found,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a U.N. briefing in Geneva. He encouraged other countries to check records for cases in late 2019, saying this would give the world a “new and clearer picture” of the outbreak.

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