Coronavirus: Was Patient Zero in Europe from France?

Doctors in France believe they have discovered the first COVID-19 patient in Europe, dating back to December 2019.

Doctors Searching for Earlier Cases

For a long time now, it was thought that the coronavirus started spreading inside China in January and then took on Europe in the early months of the year. However, a team of French doctors seem to have uncovered a case pre-dating all this in Paris, which would show that the coronavirus was already in France by the end of last year. That would be one month before the actual first registered case inside the country, and more than two before the official beginning of the lockdown in France (more on France in this online health magazine in French).

This new situation has raised questions all the way up to WHO (World Health Organization) which said that it gave a whole new picture in the whole crisis. Now scientists are going back in time, trying to retrace the steps of the virus. As the lead doctor who discovered the new case, Dr. Yves Cohen, said: “To fight an enemy, we have to know its life.” It is probably the reason that sent him and his colleagues scourging through dossiers of influenza-like illness and people suffering with pulmonary affections that came into their hospital at the end of last year.

That’s how they found the case of what is for now “patient zero.” Mr. Amirouche Hammar, 43 lives in the suburbs of Paris. To discover him, doctors found 58 potential COVID-19 patients by looking for negative tests of pneumonia. Once they got the number down to 14, they tested the samples and the one from Hammar came back positive. Before alerting the authorities, the team tested the sample a second time, and the result was the same. Afterwards, they also contacted Hammar to inform him that he had had the coronavirus.

Unexpected News

To both Dr. Cohen and Hammar, the news came as a shock. For the doctor, this discovery is both surprising and exciting at the same time. Finding a case of the coronavirus in France all the way back to December 2019 was not expected when they looked into patients’ dossiers. But it is an advantage for doctors to have uncovered this. Now, they have an even better vision of how the situation came to be and turned into a pandemic.

As for Hammar, it was even more of a shock to him. Understanding that what he went through was due to COVID-19, gives him a much better perspective on the difficult time he faced earlier this year. He certainly had most symptoms of the virus: coughing, chest pains, breathing problems. He even coughed up blood at some point. He said his time in the hospital was difficult because he felt no one knew what was wrong with him, something Dr. Cohen confirmed, saying that, at the time, he believed Hammar was suffering from a completely different virus.

To him, his wife and four kids, his recovery is a miracle. But Hammar was only 43 and in relatively good health when he got sick, which as we know today, gave him great chances of recovery.