Wuhan, COVID-19 might be spreading as early as August

Wuhan, COVID-19 might be spreading as early as August

A man on the street / Image=Wikipedia

[Newsphopick=Gyubin Lee] Satellite images of hospital parking lots in Wuhan, as well as internet search trends, show the coronavirus may have been spreading in China as early as last August, according to a new study from Harvard Medical School.

The study, which has not yet been peer-viewed, found a significantly higher number of cars in parking lots at five Wuhan hospitals in the late summer and fall of 2019 compared to a year earlier; and an uptick in searches of keywords associated with an infectious disease on China's Baidu search engine. 

Researchers saw "a steep increase in volume starting in August 2019 and culminating with a peak in December 2019," the team, led by Boston Children's Hospital chief innovation officer John Brownstein, wrote in a preprint posted on Harvard's DASH server. 

Using images from October 2018, the researchers counted 171 cars in the parking lots at one of Wuhan's largest hospitals, Tianyou Hospital. Satellite data a year later showed 285 vehicles in the same lots, an increase of 67%, and as much as a 90% increase in traffic during the same time period at other Wuhan hospitals.

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