It’s widely recognized that the first clinically diagnosed case of COVID-19 in the U. S. was in Washington state in late January. But a new study suggests the virus could have been circulating here as far back as early to mid-December 2019 without anyone realizing it.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, analyzed blood donations from the American Red Cross that were collected from nine states. The researchers discovered evidence of coronavirus antibodies in 106 of the 7, 389 blood donations, collected between Dec. 13 and Jan. 17.
Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to fight infections like viruses, per the Food and Drug Administration. They may also help prevent future illness from those particular infections. The presence of certain antibodies in the blood suggests that a person was exposed to a particular virus or bacteria — in this case COVID-19, Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life.
The researchers found antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in 39 samples from California, Oregon and Washington state dating back to Dec. 13, 2019. Antibodies were also found in 67 blood samples taken in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and Wisconsin in early January.
“These findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may have been introduced into the United States prior to January 19, 2020, ” the researchers concluded.
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