Virus Outbreak in China May Have Started Far Earlier Than Reported
Pattern analysis of hospital traffic and Chinese internet searches suggest the outbreak began as early as August 2019.
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — Satellite imagery of vehicle traffic around hospitals in Wuhan suggests the coronavirus may have struck the city months before the outbreak was acknowledged, according to Harvard University researchers.
The manuscript of the study has yet to be peer reviewed.
According to the paper, the team reviewed satellite traffic images at the parking lots of six hospitals in the autumn of 2019. The researchers found a surge in the number of parked cars after comparing the data to the same period in the previous year.
At the Wuhan Tianyou Hospital, which is one of the city's largest, the team counted 285 cars and trucks. This traffic volume is viewed as a proxy for respiratory patient intake and the count marked a 67 percent increase over 2018.
Additionally, the team analyzed internet search terms in China and found a significant uptick in searches for the words "cough" and "diarrhoea."
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