While the coronavirus pandemic is hitting almost the entire globe and continues to spread, some territories seem to be escaping it. Among them is the Italian island of Giglio located in the Tyrrhenian Sea. While Italy has recorded more than 246,000 cases of Covid-19 to date, no case of contamination has been identified among the 800 inhabitants of this small island in the Tuscan archipelago.
Scientists are trying to find an explanation for this toll because all the conditions, namely narrow alleys and densely populated houses, appear to be favorable for the spread of the disease. “Whenever an ordinary childhood illness, such as scarlet fever, measles or chickenpox strikes, within a few days virtually everyone is infected on Giglio”Dr Armando Schiaffino, the only doctor on the island for 40 years, told the Associated Press.
No inhabitant has contracted Covid-19 on the island of Giglio
This situation challenged researcher Paola Muti, epidemiologist at the University of Milan. She therefore decided to conduct a study to find out why the island of Giglio was spared by the Covid-19 epidemic. Looking at this phenomenon, Paola Muti was puzzled because many island residents had had close contact with foreign tourists or travelers who tested positive for the coronavirus. However, no inhabitant has contracted the virus. Giglio’s first known case of Covid-19 was in his sixties, who arrived on the island on February 18 for a relative’s funeral. The latter had “coughed throughout the ceremony”, specified the researcher. But, no resident was infected. Since then, no other case has been recorded on the island even after the lifting of containment in Italy in early June and the return of tourists.
Residents of Giglio Island “were not sufficiently exposed to Covid-19”
As part of the study, kits to check for the presence of antibodies were sent to Giglio Island. In late April, residents took the test to determine if they had been in contact with the virus. Of the approximately 800 year-round residents of the island, 723 have volunteered for testing. Among the island inhabitants tested, only one individual possessed the antibodies. The latter had come into contact with a sick tourist, when they were both on the same ferry.
Paola Muti believes that the inhabitants of Giglio were not infected because “they have not been sufficiently exposed to Covid-19”. The Medicalxpress site reports that this hypothesis was also raised by Massimo Andreoni, head of infectious diseases at the Tor Vergata hospital in Rome. He found that some patients are simply less able to spread the disease for reasons that are not yet known.
As for Daniel Altmann, immunologist at Imperial College London, he believes that chance has undoubtedly played an important role. “It could be something more or less trivial: no one was infected because luckily there was little contact”.