A doctor in northern Italy has claimed he saw patients with Wuhan coronavirus symptoms a month before Italy’s “patient one” was diagnosed as the first confirmed case.
Dr Pietro Poidomani practices medicine in the town of Cividate al Piano, which lies around 16 miles from the city of Bergamo, one of the areas of Italy hardest hit by the Chinese virus outbreak that has claimed tens of thousands of lives across the country.
On the 7th of January, Dr Poidomani said that he reopened his small practice after the Christmas break and met with 12 patients who all described having breathing troubles, an unusual cough, and a fever.
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After giving all five patients an x-ray, he noticed the same interstitial thickening in their lungs that has become common in cases of the Wuhan coronavirus, Corriere Della Sera reports.
The cases, if confirmed to be coronavirus, would have occurred a month before the first official case, or “patient one” was diagnosed on the 20th of February.
Poidomani claimed that in the following days, he saw many other patients exhibiting the same symptoms and requested chest x-ray records dating from the 25th of December onwards from the local government in Bergamo, but heard nothing back.
“By checking the data, we could have saved some lives,” he told the newspaper and added: “But nobody asked the right questions. And so we arrived at the crucial moment with bare hands, without equipment, without oxygen canisters.”
Dr Poidomani would later become ill with coronavirus and was put into intensive care on the 2nd of March, but emerged from the ICU less than two weeks later, testing negative for the virus.
The Pope Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo has been one of the worst-hit by the virus. Earlier this week, Angelo Pedone, a nurse in the Red Cross military corps, said the early days of the outbreak were like “hell” saying: “There were deaths everywhere.”
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“The patients knew what awaited them. They knew all the steps,” he said and added: “There was fear in their eyes. There was no time even to ask who they were.”
Earlier this month, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte defended his government’s response to the pandemic but admitted: “Our response has not been perfect, maybe, but we have been acting to the best of our knowledge.”