The coronavirus likely spread to New York as early as February, weeks before the first confirmed case of the Big Apple, according to a report citing new research.
Dr. Adriana Heguy, a member of a team at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine studying the genomes of coronaviruses in city patients, told the New York Times that early discoveries indicate the virus was in the city long before a Manhattan woman in her thirties became the city’s first official patient on March 1st.
Heguy and his team learned the difference by analyzing the different viral mutations between the city’s cases, according to the report.
Some viruses, Heguy explained to the newspaper, have shared mutations that have not been seen elsewhere.
“It is at this point that you know that you have had a silent transmission for a while,” she said.
A separate group of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who are also studying the genomes of city coronavirus patients, have determined that the city’s first cases were not related to more recent cases, than they came from Europe.
Two weeks after the first cases at Mount Sinai Hospital, “we started to see viruses linked to each other,” team member Ana Silvia Gonzalez-Reiche told The Times.
The new viruses closely mirror those found in Europe, researchers at Mount Sinai discovered, indicating “a period of global transmission not followed between late January and mid-February,” according to their study, which is awaiting peer review.
The Mount Sinai team analyzed 84 distinct COVID-19 genomes out of 800 confirmed cases treated by the Mount Sinai health system, the hospital said in a press release.
The results of their research indicate that the coronavirus “came to New York and its surroundings mainly via transmission not tracked between the United States and Europe, with only a limited introduction from China, where the virus originated, “said Dr. Viviana Simon in a statement.
“Only one of the 78 cases studied was infected with a virus which was a clear candidate for introduction from Asia, and this virus is most closely linked to viral isolates from Seattle, Washington,” said Simon.