As COVID-19 antibody tests continue to give insight into the spread of the novel coronavirus, Ohio officials have announced that they believe that the disease was present in the state as early as January -- more than a month before the first confirmed case.
According to NBC affiliate WLWT5, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton announced Monday that they have found five different cases where patients who displayed symptoms in January tested positive for antibodies. Adding to the mystery, the patients all lived in five different counties, suggesting that this was not just a cluster but rather widespread throughout the state.
"We are doing a lot more investigation, our disease detectives are going back to take a look at that and see if they were associated with travel," Acton said.
"These cases now, we can pick them up because of the antibody testing. We are going to learn more and more about this disease, how long it was here in Ohio, how long it was spreading as we do more and more testing."Ohio currently has seen around 21,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as well as more than 1,200 deaths. However, the number of cases is likely to rise as more and more of the population begins to get tested for antibodies. Ohio is not considered a particular hotspot of the disease.
Acton's announcement adds to the growing number of questions regarding the virus's spread and infectiousness -- all the more important as the United States begins the process of opening up several states in the country.
Many health experts are now claiming that the coronavirus was much more widespread earlier this year than previously believed. Though there were only 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in five major cities (Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York) in the U.S. as of March 1, researchers are now claiming that the true number was likely closer to 28,000, per The New York Times.
"You have this silent chain of transmission of thousands of people," said Alessandro Vespignani, director of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University in Boston, the team behind the estimate.
Adding to the evidence of an earlier silent spread, Santa Clara County officials announced in late April that they had discovered a death on February 6 was linked to COVID-19, meaning the first coronavirus-linked fatality in the United States was weeks earlier than the official date.
Meanwhile, in other news on the coronavirus, scientists are warning that the disease is beginning to mutate to adapt itself to humans. The mutations not only make the virus easier to spread, but also make it more difficult to find a vaccine, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.