Friday, May 7, 2021
Home News Reports Coronavirus outbreak in China may have begun in August and not December 2019 as...

Coronavirus outbreak in China may have begun in August and not December 2019 as claimed: Harvard study

While there was a general upward trend in hospital traffic between 2018 and 2020, the study observed an increase in hospital occupancy from August 2019 with the traffic reaching its peak in December.

According to a research paper published by the Harvard Medical School, the Coronavirus outbreak in China may have begun in late summer or early fall of 2019, much before it was reported to the world in December last year. The paper titled, “Analysis of hospital traffic and search engine data in Wuhan China indicates early disease activity in the Fall of 2019” was jointly written by Benjamin Rader, Nsoesie, Elaine Okanyene, Yiyao L. Barnoon, Lauren Goodwin, and John S. Brownstein.

The study observed a dramatic increase in hospital traffic and Baidu search queries related to symptoms of Coronavirus in late summer and early Fall of 2019 and thus preceding the documented start of COVID-19 pandemic in December. As per the epidemiological studies conducted earlier, 2/3 rd of the Coronavirus cases in Wuhan were found to have links with the Huanan wet markets.

The Harvard paper observed that Coronavirus may have been transmitting in Wuhan even before the identification of the wet market as a possible cause of spread. The study observed that the deadly pathogen may have adapted itself for ‘human transmission’ by the time it was reported in December 2019.

Methodology of the Harvard Research Paper

Earlier used in Latin America, the scientists used high-resolution satellite images (with an average resolution of 70 cm) from RS metrics to determine ‘hospital occupancy’ in Wuhan. The study identified 6 hospitals, namely Hubei Women and Children’s, Wuhan Tianyou, Wuhan Central, Wuhan Tongji Medical University, Wuhan Union, and Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University for analysis.

The research paper further estimated the time and date of each image, besides the address, latitude and longitude of each hospital. The dataset was then compared against a baseline for both weekdays and weekends at the hospitals. As for the search queries, the scientists checked daily data of web and mobile search logs between April 2017 and May 2020. Besides, data was also collected for influenza-like diseases from the Children’s Hospital of Wuhan and Wuhan No. 1 Hospital.

Results and Analysis

While there was a general upward trend in hospital traffic between 2018 and 2020, the study observed an increase in hospital occupancy from August 2019 with the traffic reaching its peak in December. As per the study, 5 of the 6 hospitals showed their highest relative daily volume between September and October last year.

Diarrhea and cough which are common symptoms of Coronavirus coincide with Baidu search results during the said period. Interestingly, the search query and hospital traffic also reduced after a lockdown was imposed in Wuhan on January 23. The study also noted an increase in hospital volume in the spring of this year, besides increased search queries for cough and diarrhea in May 2020.

Graphical Interpretation of Hospital traffic, Baidu search query and Disease signal (Source:

Heavy hospital traffic can be observed in October 2019 which reduced drastically by February 2020, post lockdown. An increase in the number of vehicles (marked in red) in parking lots can also be noted between October 2018 and October 2019 at Wuhan Tianyou hospital.

Satellite imagery (Source: )


While the study could not directly confirm that the dramatic increase in hospital traffic, it gave credence to the hypothesis that the outbreak of the pandemic may have happened before its identification in the wet markets of Wuhan. The unique increase in search queries for a Coronavirus symptom such as diarrhoea was not seen in preceding influenza seasons which further corroborates the hypothesis.

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

Related Articles

Trending now

Air Ambulance does a successful belly landing on foam carpet at Mumbai airport after losing a wheel while departing from Nagpur

Air ambulance of Jetserv Aviation belly-landed at Mumbai airport after it had lost its front wheel while departing from Nagpur Airport

As ‘journalist’ spread hate against RSS affiliate Sewa Bharti, here is how they are giving it their all in troubled COVID-19 times

"Such propaganda and lies do not affect us", said Sewa Bharti Delhi head Rajesh Agarwal in response to 'The Wire' journalist's Tweet against them

After continuously demanding 976 MT of oxygen, Delhi CM says they will open 9,000-9,500 new oxygen beds if they get 700 MT daily

Delhi CM says they will open 9000-9500 new oxygen beds if they get 700 MT oxygen per day, implying the current demand is much less

Times Group and The Wire’s editor spread misleading claims over FICCI letter to NDMA about ventilators: Here is what FICCI said

FICCI clarified they never suggested any negligence by the government in distribution of ventilators manufactured under PM CARES Fund

After TMC leaders denying post-poll violence, Mamata Banerjee announces compensation for kin of victims

Mamata Banerjee has claimed that around 16 people have died in the post -poll violence, almost equal from BJP and TMC, and oner person from the Sanjukta Morcha.

Black Lives Matter, a Facebook post and how I got censored: Big Tech, freedom of speech and the overall hypocrisy of the Ultra Left

On 11 February 2021, my Facebook account of 13 years was disabled without reason and it is time we talk about the Ultra Left's hypocrisy

Recently Popular

‘Out of control’ Chinese rocket falling back on Earth and no one knows where it is going to crash: Details

After launching space station hub, China's Long March 5B is doing 27,600km/h in failing orbit, with eventual crash site unknown.

Birbhum SP denies reports of rape of polling agents in Bengal’s post-poll violence

In light of the bloodshed and unspeakable atrocities committed against its party workers, the BJP has announced a nationwide dharna on May 5.

Bengal post-poll violence: TMC goons attack BSF jawans, set their homes on fire, Network 18 journalist reveals

Earlier, TMC Chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had demonised the central paramilitary forces. She had even urged the party supporters to 'gherao' them during elections.

21-year-old college student raped and murdered in Medinipur district in West Bengal, 3 including a woman arrested

West Bengal police arrested 2 masons and their female aide for rape and murder of a college student, who have confessed to the crime

Aam Aadmi Party’s Raghav Chadha defies logic while giving calculations on cryogenic tanks and medical oxygen

One feels that if Aam Aadmi Party leaders focus on resolving the oxygen crisis instead of overusing their tiny brain for absurd calculations, they could perhaps save a few lives.

Banished by Twitter and Facebook, former US President Donald Trump launches his own communications platform

Trump's senior advisor Jason Miller additionally informed that this is not the social media platform they talked about and that the plans to launch the same remain intact.
- Advertisement -


Connect with us