It’s a phrase used in countless TV and movie scenes. I find it an apt phrase to describe this particular coronavirus, even though most don’t consider that protein wrapped string of RNA to be sentient. Unlike Ebola or HIV, this coronavirus is not extremely deadly to its host, but it has a far more efficient and effective strategy for infection. This story from France illustrates the cleverness of this virus.
(Reuters) – A French hospital which has retested old samples from pneumonia patients discovered that it treated a man who had COVID-19 as early as Dec. 27, nearly a month before the French government confirmed its first cases. Yves Cohen, head of resuscitation at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals in the northern suburbs of Paris, told BFM TV that scientists had retested samples from 24 patients treated in December and January who tested negative for the flu. "Of the 24, we had one who was positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 27," he told the news channel on Sunday.
The samples had all initially been collected to detect flu using PCR tests, the same genetic screening process that can also be used to detect the presence of the novel coronavirus in patients infected at the time the sample is collected. Each sample was retested several times to ensure there were no errors, he added. Neither Cohen nor his team were immediately available for comment on Monday.
France, which has seen almost 25,000 people die from the virus since March 1, confirmed its first three COVID-19 cases on Jan. 24, including two patients in Paris and another in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.
Cohen said it was too early to know if the patient whose Dec. 27 test was COVID-19 positive is France's "patient zero". Knowing who was the first is critical to understanding how the virus spread. Cohen said the patient had survived and that a first investigation to trace the first contamination has been carried out. "He was sick for 15 days and infected his two children, but not his wife, who works in a supermarket. (Reuters)
Just as we’ve found the covid-1 virus has been circulating in the US longer than we first thought, the same is true in Europe. Who knows how long it was silently circulating in China before making its presence known in Wuhan. Paris Match has a story about how this “patient zero” case in France may have found its way from China.
“The patient in question has not traveled to Wuhan, the cradle of the epidemic in China, and does not know how he may have been infected. He transmitted the virus to his two children but not to his wife. Doctor Yves Cohen raised the possibility that the latter had contracted the virus at her workplace, the fishmonger's supermarket, and had developed the disease asymptomatically before transmitting it to her husband. After having thought for a while that she had been able to handle fish of Chinese origin, the doctors learned "by chance" that she worked alongside sushi vendors, some of whom were of Chinese origin.” (Paris Match)
This asymptomatic infection is widespread as we’re finding out and is a key factor in the evolutionary success of the virus. If all the virus did was spread wildly throughout the host population (that means us) with little effect, there would be nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, it is devastating to a small percent of the population affecting a wide variety of bodily functions. Still manageable. However, what are the long-term effects of asymptomatic infections? We won’t know for a while whether these asymptomatic infections cause long-term damage in their hosts’ pulmonary, vascular, immunological and/or neurological systems. Clever girl, indeed.