A new study has shown that the Covid-19 virus appeared in New York City several weeks before the first confirmed case, infecting more than 1.7 million New Yorkers and kills them at a rate 10 times faster than the flu.
Researchers detected antibodies against the virus in samples from February as part of a study of more than 10,000 plasma samples conducted at Mount Sinai, a New York-based hospital system, and published in a peer-reviewed article in the scientific journal Nature on Tuesday. .
New York – where initial response to the virus was hampered by a lack of access to tests ̵1; identified the first case confirmed on March 1, but research suggests it may have been saved. in early February.
While the virus is circulating, the samples are placed in the laboratory. Researchers did not start analyzing samples until mid-March, using tests designed only for research purposes.
Most samples are taken from people who come to the hospital for other reasons – from pregnancy to cancer. They were compared with samples from a control group of people seeking urgent care, usually for Covid-19. Samples were taken from February 9.
Emilia Mia Sordillo, director of clinical microbiology at Mount Sinai and senior author of the study, said: “We now know there are many asymptomatic and mild to moderate cases that are unlikely to develop. detect.”
Florian Krammer, professor of microbiology at Mount Sinai and co-author of the study, said the results confirmed the viral genome analysis showing that Sars-Cov-2 appeared in New York in February. The initial findings from the Mount Sinai study were published in June, before being reviewed.
The study calculated that about 1 in 100 infected people died from Covid-19. Dr. Krammer said this was “the very high death rate from infection” in its first episode, higher than many other parts of the world. The death rate will likely drop as more people learn about how to treat the disease, but Dr. Krammer warns that the rate may increase as hospitals are flooded with patients.
“Viruses need to be taken seriously. If we get too many cases in a healthcare system, it becomes overwhelming, ”he said.
The article also found a strong antibody response that persisted for several months after a person became infected, which appears in contrast to a study from Imperial College London that showed the proportion of British people with antibodies decreased during the season. summer.
Dr Krammer said the UK study was “overinterpreted” and caused “panic”. He said his team noticed no decrease, after looking at antibody levels in samples taken weekly from February to July.
Research in the journal Nature shows that one in five New York population has antibodies to the disease. While that may slow the virus’s spread, it’s not close to the rate needed for community immunity, Dr. Krammer said.
According to the Covid Tracking Project, more than 223,000 people have died from the virus in the United States so far.
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