ALL NEWS

A new study found coronavirus may have been in the US in December. That doesn’t mean you’ll ever know if you had it then

Dec 1, 2020, 2:29 PM
coronavirus December COVID long haulers...
A lab technician sorts blood samples inside a lab for a COVID-19 vaccine study at the Research Centers of America (RCA) in Hollywood, Florida, on August 13, 2020. Here in Utah, University of Utah Health researchers are fundraising to study the effects of COVID-19 long-term. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — A new study published Monday suggests the novel coronavirus was infecting people across the US as early as December — a month before the first person known to have been infected with coronavirus arrived in the US from China on January 15.

Researchers screened blood donations made in December and early January and found evidence of antibodies to the novel coronavirus in at least 84 samples from nine states — something that would suggest those people had been infected with the coronavirus.

“These findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may have been introduced into the United States prior to January 19, 2020,” the researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Red Cross wrote in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Many people wonder if they may have had coronavirus early in the pandemic, or even before people knew the virus was circulating.

It would be hard to know unless someone took a coronavirus test at the time — something that obviously did not exist. The symptoms are similar to those of many other flu-like infections: a cough, a fever, body aches, perhaps a sore throat.

And without a sample taken at the time of infection or soon after, it will be impossible to know whether an individual was infected back then, said Dr. Ian Lipkin, an infectious diseases specialist at Columbia University.

Antibody tests can indicate a past infection, but not when that infection occurred.

“You cannot distinguish between somebody being infected in December or being infected in March or April,” Lipkin told CNN.

A person’s immune response to a viral infection such as Covid-19 changes over time. Several studies have shown that antibody responses ramp up right after infection and then change over time. It’s not yet known how long the human body maintains an immune response to coronavirus infection.

“There are tests that in the first few weeks of infection indicate very recent infection, but after that you can’t really tell,” Lipkin said. The only exception would be if someone had taken a blood test earlier that showed they were negative for the virus.

But the study shows that blood donations may be an important source of information about when the virus began circulating, the CDC and Red Cross researchers said. “These findings also highlight the value of blood donations as a source for conducting SARS-CoV-2 surveillance,” they wrote in Tuesday’s report. SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

Blood donations stored since last year could be tested for antibodies, although the type of test could be important. Several other coronaviruses cause common colds and tests could mistakenly detect infections with those viruses, the CDC and Red Cross researchers noted.

“We clearly want to know how long this virus has been circulating,” Lipkin added.

“People are trying to figure out when this first appeared outside China.”

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Bodycam video released by authorities shows the good Samaritan trying to help the man on the tracks...
Tavleen Tarrant, CNN

Good Samaritan and NYPD officers rescue man from subway tracks moments before train arrives

A man was rescued from the New York subway tracks by good Samaritan and police just moments before a track arrived.
1 day ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
1 day ago
Police in Roy are trying to determine how a vehicle crashed into an unoccupied building Friday afte...
Mark Jones

Vehicle collides with unoccupied building in Roy, no injuries

Roy Police are trying to determine how a vehicle crashed into an unoccupied building Friday afternoon. The driver was arrested after fleeing the scene.
1 day ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
1 day ago
Dozens of residents were displaced after fire at a low income apartment complex in Richfield, Utah....
Mark Jones

American Red Cross of Utah seeks volunteers in central Utah

The American Red Cross of Utah is seeking volunteers in central Utah after a fire in Richfield earlier this week displaced 35 families.
1 day ago
Groundbreaking dates for four temples in Latin America have been announced this week by the First P...
Mark Jones

First Presidency issues 2022 Christmas message

A Christmas message was released Friday by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
A new study found coronavirus may have been in the US in December. That doesn’t mean you’ll ever know if you had it then