Questions abound as a tiny Italian island has been mostly spared from the devastation of COVID-19
Were people on Giglio Island perhaps infected but didn’t show symptoms? Was it something genetic? Something else, or just plain luck?
None of Giglio’s roughly 800 close-knit islanders said they developed COVID-19 symptoms, even though the conditions seemed favorable for the disease to spread like wildfire, The Associated Press reported.
The Gigliesi, as the residents are known, have socialized in the steep alleys near the port or on the granite steps serving as narrow streets in the hilltop Castle neighborhood, with densely packed homes built against the remnants of a fortress erected centuries ago to protect against pirates.
Dr. Armando Schiaffino, the island’s sole physician for around 40 years, shared worry about a potential local outbreak.
“Every time an ordinary childhood illness, like scarlet fever, measles or chicken pox strikes, within a very few days practically all get” infected on Giglio, he said in an interview in his office near the port.
Paola Muti, a breast cancer researcher at the University of Milan, where she’s been an epidemiology professor, decided to try to find out why it wasn’t happening this time.
“Dr. Schiaffino came to me and told me, ‘Hey, look, Paola, this is incredible. In this full pandemic, with all the cases that came to the island, nobody is sick.’ So I said to myself: ‘Right, here we can do a study, no? I am here,’” Muti said.