A night owl at last year’s carnival celebration could have been the trigger for 50,000 cases of the corona virus, according to a new study.
The Louisiana 2020 Mardi Gras celebration is known to have turned the state into one of the earliest hotspots of the U.S. pandemic in late February.
But researchers now believe that a single person likely brought the virus to town in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, causing tens of thousands of infections from people huddled together and sharing food and drinks without a mask.
They suspect that Mardi Gras “Patient Zero” infected 800 people in the two weeks between February 13th and the end of the celebrations on Ash Wednesday, February 26th.
And those 800 then spread the infection to another 50,000 people in Louisiana and neighboring states.
The team, which was made up of multiple institutions including the Scripps Research Institute, Tulane University, and Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, said the outbreak had largely gone largely undetected as no testing and mitigation measures were in place at the time.
A new study found that a single person who likely traveled from Texas brought COVID-19 to New Orleans for Mardi Gras 2020. Image: The risk of where the virus spread in the US in the first week after Mardi Gras
By Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday, nearly 800 people were likely infected, resulting in 50,000 cases in Louisiana’s first wave. Pictured: The percentage of people who traveled to New Orleans from other states prior to Mardi Gras 2020
The samples found in New Orleans showed little genetic diversity, creating conditions similar to those found on a cruise ship where an outbreak comes from a single source. Pictured: Bourbon Street in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day in February 2020
Studies later showed that COVID-19 exposure rates in Louisiana’s first wave were close to 10% from March 9 to May 15. Image: The Society of Saint Anne’s parade during New Orleans Carnival, February 2020
“The entire Louisiana outbreak is almost certainly being driven by the events on Mardi Gras,” study co-author Mark Zeller, a researcher at Scripps, told Times-Picayune.
‘It’s basically the snowball. As soon as it works, it just works. It’s really hard to stop. ‘
For the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed and published on the pre-print server medRxiv.org, the team sequenced genomes of the virus from New Orleans and others during the first wave from March 9 to May 15 Locations in Louisiana.
These were then compared to genomes from the US and worldwide to determine the origin of COVID-19 in the state of Bayou.
The sample found in New Orleans showed little genetic diversity, creating conditions similar to those of a cruise ship where an outbreak comes from a single source.
“It’s the same situation,” said lead author Dr. Robert Garry, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Tulane Medical School, The Times-Picyaune.
Infections have been spread to other states such as Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama, but being ordered to stay home prevented the virus from spreading further (see above).
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