Coronavirus first hit China LAST SUMMER but was hushed up, Harvard experts fear after study of Wuhan hospital patients
A NEW study suggests coronavirus could have hit Wuhan last summer.
Harvard researchers found evidence of an increase in road traffic outside the Chinese city's hospitals that "coincided" with a spike in internet searches for Covid-19 symptoms just before Autumn 2019.
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Head researcher, Dr John Brownstein said the findings pointed "to something taking place in Wuhan at the time".
It could mean coronavirus was creeping its way across China far earlier than suspected, with Beijing officially notifying the World Health Organisation of the bug on December 31.
At the time Wuhan health bosses described a "cluster" of pneumonia cases recorded in the city.
The Harvard researchers counted individual vehicles outside hospitals, with some car parks seeing a 90 per cent surge in traffic that the team described as "dramatic".
Dr Brownstein said: "Parking lots will get full as a hospital gets busy. So more cars in a hospital, the hospital's busier, likely because something's happening in the community, an infection is growing and people have to see a doctor."
At the same time, China's Baidu search engine saw a rise in requests for information on the search terms "cough" and "diarrhea".
A dry, continuous cough is one of the main symptoms of coronavirus, while others have reported being struck down with diarrhea and other digestive issues while infected.
Researchers added the second term pointed more so to Covid-19 as while a cough is one of the symptoms of flu common at that time, diarrhea is specific to Covid-19.
The study states: "While queries of the respiratory symptom ‘cough’ show seasonal fluctuations coinciding with yearly influenza seasons, ‘diarrhea’ is a more COVID-19-specific symptom and only shows an association with the current epidemic.
'The increase of both signals precede the documented start of the COVID-19 pandemic in December."
It's thought the first case of the virus hit in November, but officials admitted the bug could have been spreading beforehand.
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