Study: COVID Was Here Before We Knew It

The US has surpassed 600,000 COVID-19 deaths—the highest of any country in the world, ABC news reports.
Some 350 Americans are still dying from the virus daily—a reminder that the country is not out of the woods even as more states drop restrictions.
Now 15 months into the pandemic, a new NIH study suggests that SARS-CoV-​2 arrived in the US as early as December 2019—weeks before officials identified the first case. 

The researchers looked for virus antibodies in 24,000 US blood samples taken in the first 3 months of 2020, AP reports, and discovered:

  • 7 people infected before any official cases were reported in their states—and they were nowhere near New York City or Seattle, where the US outbreak first took off.

  • One person in Illinois was infected as early as Christmas Eve.

But some researchers contend that these early antibodies could have been from other coronaviruses.
Still, officials are increasingly accepting of the notion that a small number of COVID-19 cases were circulating before the country went on high alert—underscoring the need for early, global cooperation to track emerging viruses.

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