Wuhan Market Vendor Likely First Case of COVID, Scientist Says

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A vendor at an animal market in Wuhan, China, was probably the first person to contract COVID-19, continuing an international debate about when the coronavirus pandemic originated, according to an American scientist.

Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona wrote “Dissecting the early COVID-19 cases in Wuhan” in the online journal Science after studying public records, news reports, and medical journal entries about the outbreak in Wuhan. 

Previously, the first person thought to have contracted COVID-19 was a male accountant in Wuhan who lived miles from the market, did not visit the market, and reported COVID symptoms around Dec. 16, 2019, The New York Times reported.

Confusion about when his symptoms first appeared was caused by the accountant’s report of a dental problem on Dec. 8 that apparently was unrelated to COVID, according to the Times.

“This is corroborated by hospital records and a scientific paper that reports his COVID-19 onset date as 16 December and date of hospitalization as 22 December,” the study said. “This indicates that he was infected through community transmission after the virus had begun spreading from Huanan Market.”

Worobey wrote that multiple workers at the market had gotten sick with COVID-like symptoms before that, “making a female seafood vendor there the earliest known case, with illness onset 11 December,” he wrote.  “Notably, she reported knowledge of several possible COVID-19 cases in clinics and hospitals that were near Huanan Market from 11 December, and Huanan Market patients were hospitalized at Union Hospital as early as 10 December.”

“In this city of 11 million people, half of the early cases are linked to a place that’s the size of a soccer field. It becomes very difficult to explain that pattern if the outbreak didn’t start at the market,” Worobey said when commenting on the study to the Times.

The World Health Organization earlier this year said that the virus probably jumped from animals to humans who worked in the wildlife trade. The WHO discounted the idea that the virus somehow leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan.


Science. “Dissecting the early COVID-19 cases in Wuhan”

The New York Times. “First Known Covid Case Was Vendor at Wuhan Market, Scientist Says”

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