LONDON, ONT. -- It was one year ago on Jan. 27, 2020, that CTV London first reported that those close to a Western University student learned she had contracted COVID-19.

It was confirmed on Jan. 31 that a female student in her 20s had the disease.

She had just flown from Wuhan, China after spending time at the bedside of her sick parents.

Dr. Chris Mackie, London-Middlesex Medical Officer of Health, lauds that first patient for doing all the right things, even at a time when we didn’t know what the right things were.

“The system in Wuhan was overwhelmed so the parents hadn’t been tested for COVID but were diagnosed based on their clinical symptoms. And so, she took all precautions. Long before masking was mandatory, she wore a mask all the way back from Wuhan, through Shanghai, through Vancouver, through Toronto. All the way in her taxi."

Dr. Mackie says the young woman, who has never been identified, even asked her roommate to move out and wouldn’t see her boyfriend, despite initially receiving negative test result.

“Really huge credit to this person. We didn’t have any more cases until two months later. We could have had a first wave that could have been much more severe in the London region.”

According to the Middlesex-London Health Unit website, that initial case first presented on Jan. 24.

But watching China build a hospital in a week, and seeing hospitals in that country being overwhelmed, Dr. Mackie knew COVID-19 was coming.

“When you saw the dramatic actions being taken there, the pictures of hospital waiting areas that were literally jammed shoulder-to-shoulder with people, it was clear that something really remarkable was happening. “

The research focus for Western University associate professor Art Poon is on designing and implementing new computational methods to analyze how viruses adapt and spread.

“I can’t emphasize enough how different this is than what things might have been like, say, several decades ago when we didn’t have the ability to communicate with each other, share findings with each other… warn everybody.”

Poon says the ability for researchers to do a deep-dive into DNA and RNA structures of COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the ability to develop therapies and vaccines.

“The silver lining of the pandemic is that there’s been an unprecedented amount of science around understanding this virus in order to track how it’s changing and it’s spreading around the world.”