Search engine queries and satellite images of Chinese hospital parking show the Coronavirus probably started in August and not December 2019 – study
This research paper could have very wide implications both scientifically and politically. A new study by Harvard Medical School suggests that the Coronavirus outbreak in China could have happened in late August 2019 and not in December 2019 as is being presumed throughout the world.
The study is called Analysis of hospital traffic and search engine data in Wuhan China indicates early disease activity in the Fall of 2019 and is available here. The study is done by a research team from Harvard Medical School led by Nsoesie, Elaine Okanyene, Benjamin Rader, Yiyao L. Barnoon, Lauren Goodwin, and John S. Brownstein and concludes that Baidu search queries and the satellite images of hospital parking lots in the Chinese city of Wuhan suggest the coronavirus may have already begun to spread as early as last August.
The study is yet to be peer-reviewed and could face some serious opposition from the Chinese political class as it completely trashes the existing theory of the Coronavirus infection currently linked to a zoonotic spillover event in Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market in November or December of 2019. The research team led by Boston Children’s Hospital chief innovation officer John Brownstein says that the virus may have already been circulating during December as claimed by China.
The research team’s study relies heavily on satellite imagery of Wuhan hospital parking lots and Baidu search queries of disease-related terms. After an analysis, the team found an upward trend in hospital traffic and search volume beginning in late Summer and early Fall 2019.
The researchers state that they found a rise in Chinese citizens searching “cough” and “diarrhea” which are more COVID-19 specific symptoms on the Baidu search engine. They analyzed this data with the findings from the satellite images to confirm that the coronavirus epidemic was already spreading in Wuhan as early as August. The researchers say that the increase of both signals precedes the documented start of the COVID-19 pandemic in December, highlighting the value of novel digital sources for surveillance of emerging pathogens.
The lead researcher, Brownstein, speaking on ABC News, said:
Something was happening in October… clearly, there was some level of social disruption taking place well before what was previously identified as the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic. This is all about a growing body of information pointing to something taking place in Wuhan at the time,” Brownstein said. “Many studies are still needed to fully uncover what took place and for people to really learn about how these disease outbreaks unfold and emerge in populations. So this is just another point of evidence.
The study is likely to start a diplomatic fracas between China and the United States as the US government has already made it known that it was not happy with the way how China dealt with the announcement of Coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. has already withdrawn from the World Health Organisation in protest for its handling of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic.
You can download the Harvard Medical School’s study from here.