Satellite data suggests that the coronavirus may first hit China: the researcher



A new Harvard Medical School study suggests that dramatic spikes in traffic around previous major hospitals in Wuhan were novel coronaviruses and spread through central China long before they spread to the world.


Using technologies similar to those of intelligence agencies, the research team behind the study analyzed commercial satellite imagery and found that "according to Dr. John Brownstein," hospital traffic increased significantly in late summer and early 2019. “The Harvard medical professor who led the research.

The rise in traffic "coincides with questions raised in the Chinese Internet search for certain features," said ABC News contributor Brownstein, adding that some features will later be determined near the novel coronavirus.

Although Brownstein acknowledges that the evidence is relevant, the study makes for an important new data point on the secrecy of the origin of COVID-19.

"Something is happening in October," said Brownstein, chief innovation officer of Boston Children's Hospital and director of the Medical Center's Computational Epidemiology Lab. "Clearly, there has been some disruption at the social level marked by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic."

Since its outbreak in China last year, coronaviruses have infected more than 7 million people worldwide, killing more than 400,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University count. The virus jumps from animals, where it has little effect on humans, where it became the most powerful natural killer since the Spanish flu epidemic a century ago.

While Chinese officials did not officially announce to the World Health Organization until December 31 that a new respiratory pathogen is coming through Wuhan, US intelligence caught the air of an issue in early November, according to four sources, confidential information.

Because the origin of the novel virus is difficult to understand scientifically but critically important, experts around the world are rushing to uncover a pathogen known as SARS-CoV2. The task was further complicated by the Chinese government's refusal to cooperate fully with Western and international health officials, US and WHO officials.

Brownstein and his team, which includes researchers from Boston University and Boston Children's Hospital, spent more than a month suppressing signs when the population of Hubei Province in China began to decline.

The rationale of Brownstein's research project is straightforward: Respiratory diseases lead to very specific types of behavior in the communities in which they spread. Therefore, photographs that show the simplicity of that behavior may help to explain what is happening, even if the sick do not realize the widespread problem at the time.

“What we’re trying to do is look at how busy the hospital is,” Brownstein said. "And the way we do it is by counting the cars in the hospital. The hospital is busy. The parking lot is full. The hospital has a lot of cars, a hospital bus, something is happening in the community, the infection is growing and people need to see a doctor. We’ve seen that in a lot of companies. ”

The picture portrayed by the data is not conclusive in itself, Brownstein admitted, but he says the number is.

“The body is moving toward any information that happened in Wuhan at the time,” Brownstein said. "Many studies still need to find out what happened to the public and people really need to know how the disease spreads in the population. So that's another piece of evidence."

The Pathologist Peter Daszak, president of the non-profit Ecolithic Alliance in Manhattan, said the Harvard study was "absolutely fascinating."

Daszak said, "You have to look at all the evidence of where it came from and when." "When we analyzed the aftermath of the outbreak, we found out that the circulation happened days, weeks, months, years ago. I really believe that's what we're going to do with COVID-19."

David Perlin, chief science officer at the Center for Discovery and Innovation in New Jersey, said he was surprised by Brownstein's lack of confidence in the research.

"I think some of the methods are questionable and their interpretation is a little more understood," Perlin said. “The problem is we only have a subset of the data here. I am always concerned when people start creating information from data subsets, cherry-picking data [such as Internet searches]. This is suggestive. "

Images taken from space indicate the crisis below

Beginning with about 350 images captured by private satellites orbiting the globe, the Brownstein study has examined traffic and parking outside Wuhan's major hospitals for the past two years. They have pictures of them flying out of space almost every week or every week until the fall of 2019. From about 350 frames, researchers have found 108 usable images, showing areas that are not clogged with smoke, high-rise buildings, clouds or other features that complicate the satellite. Analysis.

“It should be right in the afternoon,” Brownstein said. You don’t want to shadow our ability to count cars. "

On October 10, 2018, there were 171 cars in the parking lot of Tianyo Hospital in Wuhan, the city's largest. A year later, satellites registered 285 cars - an increase of 67%, according to data reviewed by researchers and shared with ABC News.

According to the study, other hospitals saw a 90% increase in traffic between Fall 2018 and 2019. Car arrivals were discovered in mid-September 2019 at Wuhan Tongji Medical University.

To make sure they didn't make the wrong decision, the researchers said they would consider everything that could reduce traffic growth - from big public celebrations to new construction in hospitals. However, he said there was a statistically significant increase in the number of existing cars.

"If you look at all the pictures and comments you've seen in all of these places since 2018, almost all the highest car counts are in September to the December 2019 deadline," says R.S. Said President Tom Diamond. Said. Metrics, which collaborated with the Brownstein research team.

As an early "detection" of their method of disclosing information about movement through satellite imagery, researchers compared parking space at Huanan Seafood Market in mid-September when the market was busy, and after the market closed. Officials said the wet market could be zero for the spread of the novel coronavirus after reports emerged. He found great change. Brownstein said, "The images confirm the feeling that the activity and movement are shown through the lens of this type of parking space."

The study was submitted to the journal Nature Digital Medicine and is under peer review. It was supposed to be posted Monday morning on Harvard's preprint server "Dash" for Medical Dash.

The website was interrupted for a "dash" on Monday morning. A spokesman for Harvard Medical School told ABC News that they are investigating the incident.

RS Metrics, an intelligence-analysis company that analyzes satellite imagery for corporate clients, manages the project, using techniques designed to detect and monitor changes in life and business practices.

This is the equivalent of what the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency have done to analysts, looking at pictures every day and trying to figure out what's happening on the ground - especially where governments are sending people. And stop the flow of news.

Diamond told ABC News that the Wuhan region faces a widespread health problem just months before the Chinese government publicly acknowledged it. The announcement came on the eve of New Year's Eve when China's Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported a "cluster" of cases of pneumonia in its city.

“At all major hospitals in Wuhan, we measured the highest traffic in two years in September and December 2019,” Diamond said. "Our company is used to measuring small changes like a 2% to 3% increase in cabella or Wal-Mart parking. This is not the case here. There is a very clear trend here."

Former Acting Homeland Security Undersecretary John Cohen, who oversaw DHS intelligence operations during the Obama administration, said new research suggests that COVID-19, which has already killed 110,000 Americans, is likely to lead to commuters from Wuhan. Brought to America. Found.

"This study raises serious questions about whether or not coronaviruses were first introduced to the United States and were announced to ban travel from China at the end of January, much less delayed," said Cohen, now ABC News contributor.

Satellite images suggesting a change in lifestyle in Wuhan were a major factor in assorted early US intelligence.

In April, ABC News reported that the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) received the word in late November that infectious diseases through Wuhan would change lifestyle and occupation and pose a threat to the population. Sources familiar with the reports say that the NCMI, part of the Military Defense Intelligence Agency, is attached to satellite images used by the Brownstein team based on the analysis of wire and computers.

After the story was aired, the NCMI Director issued a statement saying that a formal "production/evaluation" had been prepared in November. The statement did not address the initial intelligence reports. When contacted Friday with the results of the new Harvard study, Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said, "Nothing."

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

In response to questions about the new Harvard medical study, the State Department on Sunday criticized the Beijing government for stopping vital public health information from the world community.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman told ABC News, "The Chinese government's initial report on the virus is another example of the challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party's animosity." "As the world responds to COVID-19, it is the responsibility of the Chinese government to share information about the virus and the countries it supports."

In March, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper reported that the first case of COVID-19 could be traced back to November 17, 2019, quoting Chinese government data. Recently, Chinese health officials told the local media that the virus would spread before they realized it, though they did not provide any details.

ABC News sought comment from hospitals in Wuhan about the new study, the local public health agency and the Chinese embassy in Washington. The only response he received to China came from the Chinese embassy, ​​where officials referred to a white paper issued by the China State Council on Sunday.

"Novel coronavirus is a previously unknown virus," the report documents. "Determining its origins is a scientific issue. It requires research by scientists and clinicians. Conclusions must be based on facts and evidence."

The council upheld the Chinese government's response, saying, "China has a responsibility to humanity, its people, its heritage and the international community."

On the ground, the Internet searches for features associated with COVID

Brownstein says hospital-traffic data is becoming more compelling after digging into Internet search systems. As hospital congestion increased, online traffic increased in the Wuhan area among consumers, and China's Baidu search engine was asked for "cough" and "diarrhea" information.

According to the study, "respiratory symptoms are only associated with the annual influenza season, and the current epidemic due to a more COVID-19-specific symptom, seasonal fluctuations of 'cough'." "Two signs rise before the documented launch of the COVID-19 pandemic in December."

"We've done previous studies that show that people search online for an indicator of disease in the population," Brownstein said. “And we have really looked for people who are looking for symptoms related to COVID: diarrhea, coughing, which also started in late summer.

"We can no longer confirm that this virus has caused the disease and this business in hospitals," Brownstein said. "But at the same time something very different is happening."

Brownstein and his research team used satellite imagery in 2015 to track how the health care system spreads when diseases like influenza occur.

Ellen Nucci, a global health professor at Boston University, has worked on two projects. "Using the data, we have been able to predict trends in influenza-like diseases for many years."

For that study, scientists reviewed nearly 3,000 satellite images from 2010 to 2013, re-measuring car traffic in hospitals. They conclude that traffic spikes are similar to diseases such as influenza, so public health officials can use parking spaces to prepare them for the disruption of medical facilities.

“We need new and innovative ways to assess

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