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Only 3 cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were identified in Italy in the first half of February 2020 and all involved people who had recently traveled to China. On February 20, 2020, a severe case of pneumonia due to SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) was diagnosed in northern Italy’s Lombardy region in a man in his 30s who had no history of possible exposure abroad. Within 14 days, many other cases of COVID-19 in the surrounding area were diagnosed, including a substantial number of critically ill patients.1 On the basis of the number of cases and of the advanced stage of the disease it was hypothesized that the virus had been circulating within the population since January.
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Onder G, Rezza G, Brusaferro S. Case-Fatality Rate and Characteristics of Patients Dying in Relation to COVID-19 in Italy. JAMA. 2020;323(18):1775–1776. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.4683
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