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Coronavirus was in US in mid-December last year, study suggests

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

There were cases of coronavirus in the United States at the same time it was first identified in Wuhan, a new study has shown.

There were cases of coronavirus in the United States at the same time it was first identified in Wuhan, a new study has shown.

Analysis of blood donations showed COVID-19 antibodies in samples taken in California, Oregon and Washington between December 13 and 16 last year.

The study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases showed the virus was in the US a month before the first case was confirmed there.

The study was conducted by doctors and scientists at the Centres for Disease Control.

The first coronavirus diagnosis in the US was made on January 19 in Washington state. He had recently returned from visiting family in Wuhan, China.

"These findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may have been introduced into the United States prior to January 19, 2020," the study read.

Of the 7389 blood donations analysed from between December 13 and January 17, 106 had antibodies for COVID-19.

Patients infected with the coronavirus take rest at a temporary hospital converted from Wuhan Sports Center in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province.

If the study is accurate, it indicates the virus was spreading silently months before the first serious outbreak in the US.

But at least one epidemiologist has taken the study with a grain of salt.

The University of Washington's Trevor Bedford tweeted his scepticism earlier today.

"I don't think that this study by Basavaraju et al from @CDCgov can be taken as evidence that #COVID19 was circulating in the US in December 2019," he wrote.

"It seems highly likely to me that the 39 'positives' from Dec 13 to Dec 16 reported by Basavaraju et al are due to cross-reactivity from recent seasonal coronavirus infection."

He noted that 3600 samples collected for a different study found zero positives until February 21.

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Other coronaviruses, like the common cold, are usually in high circulation in wintertime.

"The other angle to consider is that if we're supposed to believe that 2.0% of random blood donors in Dec 2019 are COVID+ this would translate to millions of infections in the population at large, in which case we would have noticed due to people dying in large numbers," Dr Bedford wrote.

The small samples of blood had been taken from donations from nine American states to test for exposure for West Nile virus.

But after the pandemic began, the blood samples were retested for coronavirus.

Antibodies indicate the person is recovering, or has recovered, from the disease.

Source: 9News

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