Although the first case of coronavirus in the US was reported on January 19 when a Washington man tested positive after traveling near Wuhan, China, a new study by researchers at UCLA and the University of Washington suggests it suggest that the virus may have spread to Los Angeles as early as last December.

The authors of the study, published Thursday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, examined the records of patients who had complained of coughs in UCLA medical facilities for the past five years, looking for a pattern that was early COVID-19 -Could uncover cases, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The team, led by UCLA Professor of Health Policy and Management, Dr. Joann Elmore, stated: “A significantly higher number of patients with respiratory illnesses and diseases that start in late December 2019 and last through February 2020 indicates a spread of SARS-CoV in the community. 2 prior to established clinical awareness and testing skills. "

The results were based on a search of 9.5 million outpatient visits, nearly 575,000 emergency rooms and nearly 250,000 hospital admissions. The researchers found that 2,938 patients had gone to a clinic with a cough in the 13 weeks between December 1, 2019 and February 29, 2020, which was about 1,047 more than the average number of cough patients who had three over the same period Months in 2016 were observed five years ago. It was also about 739 more than the number of patients seen in the winter of 2016-17 – which, up to that winter, was the busiest coughing season for clinics since 2014.

The emergency rooms treated 1,708 cough patients from December to February, an increase of 514 from the average of the previous five winters and about 229 more than in 2018-19, the busiest of the previous five winters.

The researchers also counted 1,138 patients who were hospitalized and treated for acute respiratory failure in the same three months. That was about 387 more than the average number of patients with acute respiratory failure enrolled in the last five winters and about 210 more than in the winter of 2018-19, the worst of the five previous winters.

Elmore and her colleagues noted, "It is possible that some of this excess represents early COVID-19 disease prior to clinical detection and testing."

Another group of researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the fact that seven patients were treated for COVID-19 at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in mid-March suggests they were infected through ongoing community transmission were. since none of them had clear connections with anyone who had been at a COVID-19 hotspot.

"This is a case study of how health systems analysis combined with EHR data can provide powerful and agile tools to help determine when future trends in patient populations are outside of expected ranges," the UCLA team concluded, adding added: "Lessons from this pandemic will hopefully lead to better preparation and the ability to issue warnings quickly and follow up on the next pandemic."

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