Genetics experts say in a new report that the United States missed the opportunity to catch cases of coronavirus imports earlier this year.
Analysis of the virus by evolutionary biologist Michael Waroby and colleagues at the University of Arizona found that the first person to bring the infection to the United States in Washington state in January may not be the cause of subsequent events.
“Our analyzes reveal an extended period of missed opportunities when intensive testing and communication searches could prevent SARS-Cove-2 from being established in the United States and Europe,” they wrote in a report, which has not yet been peer-reviewed and published by the printprint server BioRxiv.
Verobi and colleagues compared strains of the virus to the first known case in the United States, a sample taken from a bunch of cases from a 30-year-old traveler who arrived in Uhan on January 15 and finally arrived in the state in February.
Genetic sequencing showed that the samples were very similar, an investigation that led officials to believe that the first patient must have spread the virus.
However, Warobei said that scientists have discovered that the coronavirus changes very slowly. He and colleagues conducted computer simulations that showed that there was no way the virus came into the country with the first patient in January, six weeks after the same virus infected humans, although it was very similar.
They concluded that a second outbreak of the virus had to occur in mid-February. “The state of Washington seems to be in the mid-February period when the virus was introduced,” Vorobi told CNN.
“It looks like a virus that was probably similar to the Washington epidemic group came at some point in early February and it gave birth to a bunch of identical viruses,” said Joel Wartheim of the University of California, San Diego, who did the further study.
Orobi said the second identification of the virus came from Canada.
“It seems likely that the virus eventually spread to the state of Washington, first to Vancouver and then to Washington,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. We can’t say who. We can’t tell from where. ”