According to a new investigation in the journal “Science”, a fish seller at the Huanan animal market of Wuhan in China was the first person to be infected with the coronavirus on December 11, 2019.
Earlier research by the World Health Organization led to a man being infected several days earlier would have been hit, but that is now being undermined.
“Patient Zero” would be a woman, Wei Guixian, a 57-year-old saleswoman in the seafood department of the fresh food market in Wuhan. Her infection was diagnosed on December 11, 2019. However, previous World Health Organization investigations led to another patient Zero, an accountant who lived far from that wildlife market and was said to have been infected as early as December 8, fueling speculation that the virus may have escaped from a lab.
Michael Worobey, a Canadian virologist at the University of Arizona, now contradicts this in the renowned journal “Science”. According to the top scientist, the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 started in the animal market, so there is strong evidence that the coronavirus was transmitted from animals to humans. Worobey analyzed reports of infected patients from two hospitals before authorities in Wuhan issued a warning. Those earliest cases are either related to the animal market or geographically concentrated around that market. “In a city of 11 million people, half of those early cases could be linked to a place the size of a football field. How do you explain that if the spread didn’t start in that market,” Worobey told the New York Times.
The WHO sent a team of experts to China earlier this year, who spent four weeks in and around Wuhan with Chinese scientists and concluded in a joint report in March that the SARS-CoV-2 virus had likely been transmitted from bats to humans through another method animal, but that further research was needed. Worobey now says the pandemic chronology is most likely wrong in this influential World Health Organization study.
Worobey has unravelled that the accountant, who was widely believed to be the first COVID-19 patient, did not report his first symptoms until December 16, a week later than originally thought. The confusion is due to a dental problem at the bookkeeper on December 8. “The onset of his symptoms came after multiple cases of vendors in the Huanan market, with a fish saleswoman being the earliest known case, falling ill on December 11,” Science reported.
The origins of the coronavirus pandemic remain a mystery and a major source of tension between China and the United States. However, initial reactions from leading scientists to the new research have been positive, and the debate about the origin of the coronavirus is now being revived.