Shock test in boy, 4, could rewrite coronavirus timeline

A university in Italy claims to have found evidence of the first case of coronavirus one month earlier than the first recorded case in Wuhan.

Researchers at the University of Milan suggest a four-year-old boy contracted Covid-19 at the end of November 2019 despite Italy announcing the country’s first confirmed case of the virus three months later.

The University of Milan Professor of Global Health Mario C Raviglione told Sky News that the boy began showing symptoms on the 21st of November.

Professor of Global Health Mario C Raviglione talking to sky news about coronavirus
Professor of Global Health Mario C Raviglione claims the first positive test for coronavirus came one month before the virus was recorded in Wuhan. Source: Sky News

“Which means that assuming there is an incubation period of three to four days, some time around the middle of November he was infected,” he said.

The first known Covid-19 case in Italy was reported in the town of Codogno in the Lombardy region on February 21, 2020.

However, some evidence suggests that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) had been circulating unnoticed for several weeks in Lombardy before the first official detection

A letter regarding the study completed by The Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal reports the boy began coughing on November 21, he was taken to the emergency department on November 30 with respiratory symptoms and vomiting. By December 1 he showed a “measles-like rash” and by December 5 he had clinical diagnosis of suspected measles.

The letter revealed a swab taken from the boy showed “100 per cent identity” to the coronavirus strain in Wuhan, “as well as to sequences of other SARS-CoV-2 strains circulating worldwide at a later stage”.

However it was noted the swab was “not optimal” as it was taken 14 days after the onset of symptoms, and taken for the purpose of diagnosing measles.

a young boy being tested for coronavirus
A swab taken from the boy thought to have measles, later revealed he has coronavirus. Source: Getty

The discovery came after researchers noticed several cases of suspected measles during Europe’s late autumn from patients who eventually tested negative for measles.

They “retrospectively” looked into the possibility of coronavirus 2 in the “non measles-linked rash cases” and analysed swabs collected between September 2019 and February 2020.

The swab from the boy, who lived in the Milan area and had no reported travel history, was the only one to test positive to Covid-19.

“This finding is of epidemiologic importance because it expands our knowledge on timing and mapping of the SARS-CoV-2 transmission pathways,” the research letter states.

“Long-term, unrecognised spread of SARS-CoV-2 in northern Italy would help explain, at least in part, the devastating impact and rapid course of the first wave of COVID-19 in Lombardy.”

The letter also stated the Italian National Institute of Health found the presence of the virus in Milan wastewater as early as mid December 2019.

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