A person walks previous coronavirus paintings in Milan – Reuters

A four-year-old Italian boy contracted Covid-19 way back to November final yr, Italian scientists imagine, in a discovery that might dramatically rewrite the timeline of the unfold of the sickness.

The discovering would counsel that the coronavirus was circulating in Italy a lot sooner than anticipated – the pandemic was not formally detected till late February.

It might essentially alter the understanding of when the virus entered Europe from China, the place it’s thought to have already originated. Until now, it was thought that Europe’s earliest detected case was a 43-year-old Frenchman from Paris who fell sick in late December.

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

“Long-term, unrecognized 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 little boy, from a city close to Milan within the Lombardy area, started to really feel sick on November 21, affected by flu-like signs and a rash, and it was initially thought that he was affected by measles.

This picture of an exhausted Italian nurse, taken through the first wave of the pandemic, got here to symbolise the horrible impression of the virus

But a subsequent swab, taken in December, revealed the presence of the Covid-19 virus, in accordance with a examine by Milan State University which was printed within the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

It means that the boy is Italy’s true “patient zero”, reasonably than a middle-aged man from the northern city of Codogno who was discovered to be contaminated with Covid-19 in February.

The swab was one among 39 retrospectively examined by the researchers, who initiated the examine after noticing that many sufferers who had been regarded as affected by measles didn’t the truth is have already the sickness, suggesting they’d contracted one thing else.

The discovering would push again by three months the emergence of Covid-19 in Italy, the primary Western nation to be onerous hit by the virus.

The boy had not traveled overseas across the time he fell sick, suggesting he contracted it in Italy.

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The analysis is prone to be seized on by China, which has been aggressively pushing the idea that the virus didn’t originate in Wuhan.

Beijing has been accused by the worldwide group of masking up precisely when and the place the virus emerged.

The discovering might not imply that the virus didn’t originate in China – simply that it was circulating there a lot sooner than thought and was then dropped at Italy.

Northern Italy, with its vogue, furnishings, automobile and design sectors, has sturdy journey and commerce hyperlinks with China.

“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,” the scientists wrote of their paper.

“Phylogenetic studies highlighted an early circulation of SARS-CoV-2 in Italy and suggest multiple introductions of the virus from China and Germany, followed by an autochthonous transmission.”

Last month, a examine advised the virus might have already entered Italy as early as September final yr, whereas a 3rd examine discovered traces of the virus in untreated sewage water in Milan and Turin in December.

Italy’s dying toll from the coronavirus is now near 62,000 – the second highest quantity in Europe after the UK.

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