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Was COVID-19 in San Diego before March?

News 8 viewers are wondering if the cough or fever they had in December or January was actually coronavirus.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in San Diego County was in early March, but now that the symptoms of the virus are known, some are wondering, 'Was that cough or fever I had in December or January actually coronavirus, and I just didn't know it?'

"It's almost certainly the case that California, as many states, had active cases that were un-monitored even back since January," Dr. Jacob Glanville of Distributed Bio, the Bay Area group that recently discovered a possible cure for COVID-19.

"So when you see the alarming rapid appearance of multiple cases, that's more if more a factor of more tests being conducted rather than a huge outbreak suddenly appearing out of nowhere," said Dr. Glanville. 

"Those people were already in our communities. They were already sick. Some of them were already going to the ICU. They just were being misdiagnosed as influenza or some other serious disease."

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Other experts agree but said more testing needs to be done, and that includes looking at blood samples from months ago to see if the virus was already in circulation.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association told USA Today

"I believe at the end of this, when we do look back – and we will – we will probably find that this disease was here earlier than we thought," he said. "We also know that when we closed our borders, it was very, very leaky."

County leaders believe COVID-19 was in San Diego earlier than first detected.

"I absolutely believe the virus was in San Diego before our first confirmed case," said Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director for San Diego County. 

"Those first cases were identified as travel-related, that's the way we were looking for them. But there very well may have been other cases introduced into the community and that were undetected."


View all coverage of coronavirus / COVID-19 

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According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing. 

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. 

  • Stay home when you are sick. 

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. 

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. 

The CDC also says facemasks should only be used by people who show symptoms of the virus. If you’re not sick, you do not have to wear a facemask.