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A French hospital has determined it treated a patient with COVID-19 in December, nearly a month before the nation confirmed its first infection, a doctor told a French news outlet.
While retesting old samples, the hospital discovered a pneumonia patient who was positive for the coronavirus as early as Dec. 27, Yves Cohen, head of resuscitation at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals in Paris, told BFM TV, according to The Guardian.
Cohen said it was too early to say whether the man treated in December was “patient zero” for France. The man survived after being sick for 15 days, and officials have launched a tracing investigation.
He had infected his two children but not his wife, who works at a sushi stand at a supermarket along side colleagues of Chinese origin. The patient had not traveled abroad, but it is unclear if his wife’s coworkers traveled to China, according to The Guardian.
“We’re wondering whether she was asymptomatic,” Cohen said. “He may be the ‘patient zero’, but perhaps there are others in other regions. All the negative PCRs for pneumonia must be tested again. The virus was probably circulating,” he added, referring to a genetic screening test.
France first identified three cases of coronavirus on Jan. 24, with two in Paris and one in the city of Bordeaux.
As of Monday evening, France has confirmed at least 169,583 cases of coronavirus, leading to at least 25,204 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.