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Coronavirus outbreak: Virus may have mutated; fears over rising food prices – Global News

May 5th, 2020

Dawna Friesen reports on the new evidence that the original strain of COVID-19 has mutated into a new, more contagious strain. And Abigail Bimman hears from farmers and food processors, who say they need more help from Ottawa or else food prices will soar.

For more info, please go to https://globalnews.ca/news/6887400/co…
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Studies of coronavirus evolution stir up a controversy for scientists on social media – Yahoo Money

May 5th, 2020
Virus transmission mapVirus transmission map
A graphic generated by Nextstrain shows how different variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus have spread around the world. Purple streaks show where the virus was transmitted from China, green and yellow-green streaks show transmission from Europe, and red streaks show transmission from the United States. (Nextstrain.org Graphic)

Is the coronavirus behind COVID-19 turning into a more insidious pathogen? Or are such claims overblown?

A fast-moving debate over virus evolution illustrates how not-yet-vetted reports about the course of the coronavirus outbreak can go, um, viral — and how important social media channels have become in the global discussion of the science behind the pandemic.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The nature of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is of such great interest because the disease is so deadly and disruptive: As of today, Johns Hopkins University reports nearly 3.7 million confirmed cases around the world, with a global death toll of more than 250,000. The United States accounts for 1.2 million cases and 71,000 deaths so far, and that toll could double before the worst is over.” data-reactid=”25″>The nature of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is of such great interest because the disease is so deadly and disruptive: As of today, Johns Hopkins University reports nearly 3.7 million confirmed cases around the world, with a global death toll of more than 250,000. The United States accounts for 1.2 million cases and 71,000 deaths so far, and that toll could double before the worst is over.

Every day, several hundred new studies about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 — most of which haven’t yet gone through the traditional peer-review process — go online, to face scrutiny by researchers and a wide swath of the general public.

One study got more than the usual traction today: The research project, led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Sheffield, looked at the way 14 variants of the virus have spread across the world.

<h4 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Coronavirus Live Updates:&nbsp;The latest COVID-19 developments in Seattle and the world of tech” data-reactid=”28″>Coronavirus Live Updates: The latest COVID-19 developments in Seattle and the world of tech

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The resulting paper was filed to the BioRxiv preprint server last week but has not yet been peer-reviewed. It concluded that one particular variant known as D614G is “of urgent concern.” That variant, a descendant of a form of the virus that started out in China, began spreading in Europe in early February and eventually made the leap to other parts of the world.” data-reactid=”29″>The resulting paper was filed to the BioRxiv preprint server last week but has not yet been peer-reviewed. It concluded that one particular variant known as D614G is “of urgent concern.” That variant, a descendant of a form of the virus that started out in China, began spreading in Europe in early February and eventually made the leap to other parts of the world.

“When introduced to new regions, it repeatedly and rapidly becomes the dominant form,” the researchers noted.

The concern was that the virus had evolved to become more transmissible, and that interventions aimed at curbing the pandemic might not be as successful as hoped. People who survived a bout with one variant of the virus might still fall prey to the increasingly dominant variant, the researchers said.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="“We cannot afford to be blindsided as we move vaccines and antibodies into clinical testing,” lead study author Bette Korber said in a Facebook post quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “Please be encouraged by knowing the global scientific community is on this, and we are cooperating with each other in ways I have never seen … in my 30 years as a scientist.”” data-reactid=”32″>“We cannot afford to be blindsided as we move vaccines and antibodies into clinical testing,” lead study author Bette Korber said in a Facebook post quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “Please be encouraged by knowing the global scientific community is on this, and we are cooperating with each other in ways I have never seen … in my 30 years as a scientist.”

It didn’t take long for the scientific community to start assessing the team’s conclusions — and the way they were being reported to the general public. Cornell University virologist Brian Wasik pulled no punches on Twitter:

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="And he wasn’t alone. Columbia University’s Angela Rasmussen said the report made her blood boil. “There is no evidence that the dominant strain is such because it is ‘more contagious,’ ” she tweeted.” data-reactid=”35″>And he wasn’t alone. Columbia University’s Angela Rasmussen said the report made her blood boil. “There is no evidence that the dominant strain is such because it is ‘more contagious,’ ” she tweeted.

Harvard University’s Bill Hanage laid out an alternate explanation in his own Twitter thread, posted way back on Friday. He argued that D614G might have become the dominant variant of the virus simply because of a metaphorical roll of the dice:

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="You’ll have to read through the entire 15-tweet thread to find out how Hanage uses data from Washington state to back up his view. Here’s his bottom line: “Right now there are better ways of fighting the pandemic than worrying about different strains defined by one non-synonymous SNP. … If anyone who does not know what it is already googles ‘non-synonymous SNP,’ I will be delighted.”” data-reactid=”45″>You’ll have to read through the entire 15-tweet thread to find out how Hanage uses data from Washington state to back up his view. Here’s his bottom line: “Right now there are better ways of fighting the pandemic than worrying about different strains defined by one non-synonymous SNP. … If anyone who does not know what it is already googles ‘non-synonymous SNP,’ I will be delighted.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="But wait … there’s more: This afternoon brought a more ambiguous verdict from Trevor Bedford, the epidemiologist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who started tracing coronavirus evolution back in January. Ever since then, he and his colleagues at Nextstrain and the Seattle Flu Study have been comparing genetic fingerprints from viral variants to map how they’re spreading globally.” data-reactid=”46″>But wait … there’s more: This afternoon brought a more ambiguous verdict from Trevor Bedford, the epidemiologist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who started tracing coronavirus evolution back in January. Ever since then, he and his colleagues at Nextstrain and the Seattle Flu Study have been comparing genetic fingerprints from viral variants to map how they’re spreading globally.

Bedford said there’s some evidence to back up the claims made by Korber and her colleagues, but that the case is “far from conclusive.” He also stressed that D614G doesn’t appear to be more dangerous than the other variants, even if it’s currently more dominant. Here’s the full thread:

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="For folks who are willing to follow these threads closely, there’s a payoff that goes beyond the immediate questions about transmissibility and variations in the virus. With the right kind of perspective, the combination of raw research and social-media assessment can provide a look at how the scientific sausage is made, analogous to the way those old-fashioned “Visible Human” figurines provided literal transparency for anatomy class.” data-reactid=”64″>For folks who are willing to follow these threads closely, there’s a payoff that goes beyond the immediate questions about transmissibility and variations in the virus. With the right kind of perspective, the combination of raw research and social-media assessment can provide a look at how the scientific sausage is made, analogous to the way those old-fashioned “Visible Human” figurines provided literal transparency for anatomy class.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Bedford himself marveled over how quickly things have changed during a session at February’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle.” data-reactid=”65″>Bedford himself marveled over how quickly things have changed during a session at February’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle.

“It’s been a really interesting way that science has been proceeding, to have it being very rapid and open as it’s done, not just waiting a year later for the paper to come out,” he said. “This mirrors generally what’s been happening with scientific communication surrounding the epidemic, where everything’s kind of been flipped around. … It’s been an amazing coming together of scientists around the world.”

The past few weeks have demonstrated how messy the scientific process can be, but they’ve also demonstrated how its error-correction mechanisms work. And that’s a good thing, even if it means dealing with some turmoil on Twitter.

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Apple’s WWDC will be virtual and completely FREE – CNET

May 5th, 2020

Outbreak grows at Midtown Calgary Co-op as 15 employees test positive for COVID-19 – CBC.ca

May 5th, 2020

A COVID-19 outbreak at a Beltline grocery store has grown to 15 cases among staff.

On April 19, the Midtown Calgary Co-op told customers that three workers had tested positive but said at the time there was no evidence the cases were contracted within the store. 

Each of those three employees last worked April 12 in the produce, meat and grocery sections of the store, located at 1130 11th Avenue S.W.

 All three recognized their symptoms and self-isolated.

The company said since those first cases were confirmed, it requested testing for the rest of the staff at that location and implemented temperature checks before shifts.

Co-op said it has now confirmed a total of 15 cases among staff — nine of whom have recovered.

“We have been informed by AHS that the risk of transmission between staff in-store or to shoppers is still low. The majority of cases appear to have been contracted from outside positive sources,” a release sent to customers from CEO Ken Keelor on Tuesday read.

The company said it’s taken a number of measures, like increasing sanitizing, installing plexiglass barriers at checkouts and providing hand sanitizer at the store’s entrance. 

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Coronavirus: Prostate-cancer men swap chemo for precision drugs – BBC News

May 5th, 2020
Stuart FraserImage copyright Stuart Fraser
Image caption Stuart is now taking one of the treatments at home

Men with advanced prostate cancer can take highly targeted hormone therapies at home instead of coming into hospital for chemotherapy, NHS England says.

Experts say it will relieve pressure on the NHS, which wants all urgent and essential cancer treatments to continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The drugs are also smarter, kinder treatments and could extend the lives of many more patients, they say.

This precision-medicine approach is already used to treat other cancers.

‘Huge shock’

Diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in February, Stuart Fraser, 66, from Ashtead, in Surrey, will now take four enzalutamide tablets a day.

“Being diagnosed was a huge shock,” he said.

“What made it even more worrying was that, because of coronavirus, I was told I couldn’t have the usual treatment of chemotherapy, which would have affected my immune system.

“When I heard about other possible treatments like abiraterone and enzalutamide, I launched a petition to try to make sure men like me could get hold of it.

“That’s why it’s such great news that now no-one will be in the same position I was at the beginning of all this.”

Enzalutamide blocks the effect of the testosterone hormone on prostate-cancer cells, preventing them from growing.

Patients intolerant to enzalutamide, will be given abiraterone, which stops the body producing testosterone.

Until now, in England and Wales, the drugs were available only to patients for whom other hormone therapy had stopped working, although abiraterone was recommended in Scotland as a first-line treatment earlier this year.

Now, doctors can prescribe them when a patient is first diagnosed.

‘Hard-pressed hospitals’

Prof Nick James, of the Institute of Cancer Research, in London, who has led major trials into targeted prostate cancer drugs, said: “I’m pleased and relieved that many more men should now benefit from targeted hormone therapies right from when they are first diagnosed.

“It will greatly lower the risk of exposing vulnerable patients to the coronavirus and lightens the load on our hard-pressed hospitals.

“Men can take their tablets at home and have their bloods checked by their GP.

“And, unlike chemotherapy, enzalutamide and abiraterone have no significant effects on patients’ immune system.”

National clinical director for cancer Prof Peter Johnson said: “The NHS has been working hard to ensure the safety of cancer patients during the pandemic.

“Switching from chemotherapy to hormone treatments for prostate cancer is just one example of how we are adapting our approach to help thousands of cancer patients across the country continue to access the care they need.”

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For those needing in-home care, a dire decision amid a pandemic – The Washington Post

May 5th, 2020

“They are so fundamental to my well-being at this point,” said Kelleher, 61, of Canton, Conn. “Even though I have a husband and he’s wonderful, they help me with things that he can’t.”

Thousands of Americans have faced a similar dilemma in the weeks since covid-19 paralyzed the nation, forced to choose between isolating themselves to guard against contracting a potentially fatal disease and continuing to receive the much-needed help of home health workers. Some of those aides are providing medical treatment, which means their services are regulated by Medicare. Others are providing more-personal assistance — helping patients move around their homes and assisting with basic functioning — as part of noncertified services that are similarly crucial to those who require them.

Home aides in both categories are caught in a conundrum. A recent survey conducted by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice found that 42 percent of home health aides were treating patients who had tested positive for covid-19, according to William A. Dombi, president of the home-care association. But concern also lies in the unknown. Inconsistent testing means patients and their caregivers often live with the fear that the other is harboring the virus.

Unlike health-care workers affiliated with hospitals or other practices, many home-care aides have not been given personal protective equipment. Many have no office or agency infrastructure to provide testing for the virus. If they continue traveling from place to place, seeing patient after patient — particularly without the personal protective equipment they need — they risk contracting the virus and bringing it home to their families. If they do not, they will be out of work.

“The workforce issues stem from a lack of PPE,” said Kevin Smith, chief executive at Best of Care, a home health agency in Massachusetts. “If an aide doesn’t feel safe, he or she is not going to want to go to work. And who can blame them? They’re often going into homes where they don’t necessarily know who has been there the day before, let alone the hour before.”

The dangers faced by those on both sides are real and urgent. One of Kelleher’s trusted aides, Lessie Wilson, called and reported that she needed to take some time off. Her husband, Leroy Wilson, had tested positive for the virus. A few days later, after 40 years of marriage and raising seven children, he died at age 77.

“He was a very religious man, and although I was never blessed to meet him, I know his prayers helped keep me alive these past two years,” Kelleher wrote in memory of Wilson.

Lessie Wilson returned to work for Kelleher after she had been quarantined in accordance with agency protocol. She works for an agency that assigns direct-care workers to patients and that has instituted protocols to clear potentially infected workers before they return to work. But not all direct-care workers are affiliated with agencies; Kelleher’s other aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns, finds clients herself. Those patients must trust her to take her own precautions, and she must trust them to take theirs.

Emilia Adnès-Maxwell had hired workers from one such agency to care for her mother at her home in Eustis, Fla. Barbara Koski Maxwell, 94, was beset with dementia. Adnès-Maxwell had promised her mother that she wouldn’t place her in a nursing home, so when Koski Maxwell started needing constant care, her daughter took her into her home. When awareness of covid-19 began to spread, Adnès-Maxwell, who is dealing with her own immune deficiency condition, worried about the risks of having multiple workers enter her home, particularly because some of them visited patients in nursing homes or hospitals. She asked her agency to provide the same workers, day after day, to mitigate those risks.

But her mother was visited by many unfamiliar faces, and rarely the same one twice. Some had homemade masks. Some were rationing PPE at the direction of their employer. So Adnès-Maxwell asked that the home health aides stop visiting and instead just drop off the necessary supplies. She said she could “see the fear” in the aides’ eyes. She shared it.

“I was scared,” Adnès-Maxwell said. “I didn’t want this coming into our home, but I could see it being inevitable.”

Her mother eventually contracted the virus. She struggled to breathe and coughed up mucus. Adnès-Maxwell wiped her mother’s eyes and tried to help her. Koski Maxwell, once a renowned courtroom artist and illustrator for Highlights magazine, died April 1. Adnès-Maxwell said she doesn’t know where the virus came from. She was furloughed from her job at Walt Disney World and had stayed inside for some time before her mother died. She said her son visits only a few people in the neighborhood.

Adnès-Maxwell pointed out that the family lives about 30 minutes from the Villages, a retirement community in central Florida that has experienced a covid-19 outbreak.

She is hardly the only client to cancel home-care services for family members. With more people working from home than normal, more patients have family members around to help.

Even some who don’t have family at home are not willing to risk exposure. Smith said his Massachusetts-based agency has seen a 20 percent drop in overall services provided, largely because of patients canceling services.

Marla Lahat, executive director of Home Care Partners, a D.C. nonprofit organization that helps low-income families secure home health care, said her organization had about 650 clients before March 15. As of last week, it had lost 120 of those clients — just shy of 20 percent.

Home health workers are canceling, too. Smith and Lahat said they’ve seen workers decide they couldn’t risk bringing the virus home to their families, or couldn’t find adequate child care, or couldn’t afford transportation to their jobs. According to a study conducted by PHI — an organization that studies and works to improve the home health industry — the median hourly wage for a unionized home health worker is less than $13 an hour. Most do not have paid sick leave. The choice to leave work or risk illness can be as devastating to them as the choice to receive their care or turn it away can be for those who need them.

The magnitude of cancellations nationwide is hard to calculate because reliable data about the state of the in-home care industry is almost impossible to accumulate. Robert Espinoza, vice president of policy at PHI, said the fractured home health system precludes that kind of data collection.

“There isn’t really a strong data collection system at the state level where we can get a sense of how many home-care workers there are, how many full-time [or] part-time employees, what are the vacancy rates, turnover rates,” Espinoza said. “And one of the implications of that is we can’t tell where a workforce shortage is greatest and identify which part of a state needs more workers. And that’s only become more pronounced in this moment.”

Smith, Lahat and others said they expect many patients to resume services once the country begins to reopen and testing becomes more widely available. Still, the financial crunch imposed by the pandemic could push many home-care agencies out of business. In the meantime, workers and their clients are left to decide whether to risk infection or endure the alternative.

Kelleher’s other home aide hasn’t stopped visiting. That aide has emphysema, meaning she is also in a high-risk category for covid-19. But she said she doesn’t go many places — she gets gas, goes to the supermarket, goes to Kelleher’s, goes home. She and Kelleher say not much has changed, at least not for them.

“We don’t hug anymore,” said Kelleher, who said she couldn’t imagine going without regular visits from home health aides, even as each of her four children offered to take her home with them.

“I was like, you know, I have everything here set up the way I like it,” Kelleher said. “I’ve got my little dog. I’ve got my big chair. It would just be a nightmare to try to move somewhere else at this point.”

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Stadia’s game controller finally works wirelessly on your computer – Engadget

May 5th, 2020

Prostate-cancer men swap chemo for precision drugs – BBC News

May 5th, 2020
Stuart FraserImage copyright Stuart Fraser
Image caption Stuart is now taking one of the treatments at home

Men with advanced prostate cancer can take highly targeted hormone therapies at home instead of coming into hospital for chemotherapy, NHS England says.

Experts say it will relieve pressure on the NHS, which wants all urgent and essential cancer treatments to continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The drugs are also smarter, kinder treatments and could extend the lives of many more patients, they say.

This precision-medicine approach is already used to treat other cancers.

‘Huge shock’

Diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in February, Stuart Fraser, 66, from Ashtead, in Surrey, will now take four enzalutamide tablets a day.

“Being diagnosed was a huge shock,” he said.

“What made it even more worrying was that, because of coronavirus, I was told I couldn’t have the usual treatment of chemotherapy, which would have affected my immune system.

“When I heard about other possible treatments like abiraterone and enzalutamide, I launched a petition to try to make sure men like me could get hold of it.

“That’s why it’s such great news that now no-one will be in the same position I was at the beginning of all this.”

Enzalutamide blocks the effect of the testosterone hormone on prostate-cancer cells, preventing them from growing.

Patients intolerant to enzalutamide, will be given abiraterone, which stops the body producing testosterone.

Until now, in England and Wales, the drugs were available only to patients for whom other hormone therapy had stopped working, although abiraterone was recommended in Scotland as a first-line treatment earlier this year.

Now, doctors can prescribe them when a patient is first diagnosed.

‘Hard-pressed hospitals’

Prof Nick James, of the Institute of Cancer Research, in London, who has led major trials into targeted prostate cancer drugs, said: “I’m pleased and relieved that many more men should now benefit from targeted hormone therapies right from when they are first diagnosed.

“It will greatly lower the risk of exposing vulnerable patients to the coronavirus and lightens the load on our hard-pressed hospitals.

“Men can take their tablets at home and have their bloods checked by their GP.

“And, unlike chemotherapy, enzalutamide and abiraterone have no significant effects on patients’ immune system.”

National clinical director for cancer Prof Peter Johnson said: “The NHS has been working hard to ensure the safety of cancer patients during the pandemic.

“Switching from chemotherapy to hormone treatments for prostate cancer is just one example of how we are adapting our approach to help thousands of cancer patients across the country continue to access the care they need.”

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New Report Says Coronavirus May Have Made Early Appearance in France – The New York Times

May 5th, 2020

PARIS — Weeks before Chinese authorities acknowledged that the coronavirus could be transmitted by humans, and nearly a month before the first officially recorded cases in Europe, a 42-year-old fishmonger showed up at a hospital in suburban Paris coughing, feverish and having trouble breathing. It was Dec. 27.

Now doctors in France say that the December patient may have been the earliest known coronavirus case in Europe.

If confirmed, the case of the fishmonger, Amirouche Hammar, would mean the deadly virus made an appearance on the continent long before officials there began tackling it. Such a discovery would bring a strange new wrinkle to the story of the virus in Europe, one that has the potential of blowing up the previously established chronology.

The French government says it is looking at the report. The doctors who made the finding said that they are confident in it, and that they tested the patient’s old sample twice to avoid false positives. But they acknowledged that they could not completely rule out that possibility.

The doctors also cautioned that without further analysis of the sample, it was unclear whether the man had passed the virus on to anyone else, or whether his case was tied in any way to the epidemic that arrived later.

But if the timeline of when the virus appeared in Europe does change, the official efforts to combat the contagion will turn out to have been not just too late, but hopelessly too late.

By the time the first serious measures were put in place — the French government didn’t order a lockdown until March 16 — the virus may have already appeared three months earlier, according to a study of the new case that has been peer-reviewed and accepted for formal publication in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.

That, in turn, would help explain the rapidly developing catastrophe that has since unfurled in France and Europe. There have been thousands of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, in numbers that only in recent weeks have begun to abate somewhat, as a result of the French government’s rigid confinement measures.

France alone has recorded over 25,000 coronavirus deaths.

“If confirmed, what this case does highlight is the speed at which an infection starting in a seemingly remote part of the world, can quickly seed infections elsewhere,” said Prof. Rowland Kao, the Sir Timothy O’Shea Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science at the University of Edinburgh, in an interview for Britain’s Science Media Centre.

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“Why is this important?” he added. “It means that the lead time we have for assessment and decision-making can be very short.”

The journal publishing the report about the case has had a brush with controversy over the coronavirus, walking back a study it published about treatments for the virus. And much about this apparent first case remains a mystery.

But the authors of the paper, doctors at the Avicenne Hospital in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, among others, declare flatly: Their study is of a “patient infected with Covid-19 one month before the first reported cases in our country” whose “lack of recent travel suggests that the disease was already spreading among the French population at the end of December 2019.”

French authorities declared the first official cases of coronavirus in the country — three people who had all recently been in China — on Jan. 24. That was four days after China for the first time confirmed human-to-human transmission.

The doctors retested a sample from a patient who had suffered from pneumonia. They found the coronavirus.

“There’s no doubt for us,” said Dr. Yves Cohen, head of intensive care at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals, in the northern suburbs of Paris, and one of the authors of the study, in a telephone interview Tuesday. “It was already there in December.”

What is not clear is how the patient, Mr. Hammar, got it. Apart from a trip to Algeria last summer, he had not traveled. His wife, however, briefly exhibited some of the symptoms — coughing, principally — of the coronavirus, Dr. Cohen said.

“We’ve got some theories,” he said. “His wife had a little cough.”

Mr. Hammar’s wife, Fatiha, who works in a supermarket near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, told French television this week that she serves customers who come directly from the airport, “with their suitcases,” she said.

There were direct flights between that airport and the one in Wuhan, China, before borders were closed.

Experts warned that the case could not be directly tied to France’s current outbreak without a genomic analysis.

“One really has to make a distinction between the epidemic wave and isolated cases,” Samuel Alizon, an infectious diseases and epidemics specialist at the CNRS, France’s national public research organization, said in a telephone interview.

“It is quite possible,” he explained, “that there were isolated cases that led to transmission chains that died down.”

Mr. Alizon said it was common for epidemics imported from abroad into a given country to undergo several false starts, with transmission chains that died down on their own before one of the imported cases led to an actual epidemic.

“So the question is more: How many importation events did it take to launch the epidemic wave?” he said.

The first case outside of China was reported in Thailand on Jan. 13. But experts have long suspected that the coronavirus may have spread internationally before the first officially reported cases.

The detection of the potential new case in France follows similar instances in the United States, where officials recently discovered that deaths from the virus had occurred weeks earlier than previously known, and a model suggested that silent outbreaks had spread for weeks before detection.

The French government has said very little about the case so far.

France’s health ministry said on Tuesday that authorities were in contact with scientists and experts from other countries on the timeline of the spread of the virus, and that they would carry out further investigations “if they appear necessary.”

“We are in permanent contact with our European and Chinese counterparts on the issue, in order to better understand the spread of the virus at the global level,” the ministry said.

Dr. Olivier Bouchaud, an infectious disease specialist at the same hospital as Dr. Cohen, told the LCI news channel on Tuesday that it was common to keep frozen samples from patients with lung infections for later testing.

“It isn’t very surprising,” Dr. Bouchaud said of the Dec. 27 positive case, noting that in China the virus also circulated under the radar for weeks before the first official cases were detected.

Frédéric Keck, a biosecurity expert at CNRS, said, “If Covid existed in November” — which some reports suggest was the case — “it is certainly possible that it was here in December.”

“We never really know when an epidemic starts,” Mr. Keck said.

Mr. Hammar, who lives in Bobigny, a northern suburb of Paris, said in an interview with BFM TV that he drove himself to the emergency ward at 5 a.m. on Dec. 27 after several days of coughing, difficulty breathing and chest pains.

Mr. Hammar, who has a history of asthma and diabetes, was diagnosed with a pulmonary infection but quickly recovered and was discharged two days later.

“I was surprised, given the devastation that the illness is causing,” Mr. Hammar said of learning, months later, that he had been tested positive for Covid-19.

Benjamin Mueller contributed reporting from London.

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