Hungarian doctor who diagnosed first coronavirus case in the country awarded

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General practitioner Dr. Judit Palkó, currently working in Budapest’s 9th district, was awarded the Pro Universitate Prize by the Semmelweis Medical University for successfully diagnosing one of the two first coronavirus cases in Hungary, both of whom were Iranian students at that university.

“Thanks to the swift and accurate diagnosis of Dr. Judit Palkó, the university was spared a severe epidemiological crisis,” the university said in a statement. “This is especially relevant because as a result of the quick diagnosis, the university — and in the larger context Hungary as a whole — could begin defensive measures with adequate time, giving it a head start.”

Palkó graduated from the Semmelweis University in 1994, and qualified in two specialties in 2000 and 2016, respectively. She has been a general practitioner in Budapest’s 9th district, where the largest portion of the university is located, since 2005 and for the past seven years has also been the university’s doctor.

Following her diagnosis, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced on March 4 that the pandemic has reached Hungary and declared a state of emergency on March 11. Hungary established its national coronavirus operative group on January 31, more than a month before the first cases had been diagnosed.

Although the first two cases were those of the Iranian students, subsequent case studies have demonstrated that the main vectors that spread the pandemic in Hungary were the Hungarian guest workers returning from various Western European countries after having lost their jobs there, the university’s statement contended.

So far, Hungary has had 3,841 confirmed coronavirus cases, claiming 517 casualties. Currently, the number of cure patients is twice as high as the still active cases. The number of active cases peaked on May 4 and has been steadily declining since then.   

Title image: General practitioner dr. Judit Palkó (L) and Béla Merkely (R), Semmelweis University. (source: Semmelweis University)

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