Earliest known Covid case tracked down to Wuhan wet market vendor, scientist claims

The earliest known case of the Covid outbreak was traced back to a shop assistant at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, a scientist claimed

Medical staff moved patients in Wuhan on January 20 at the start of the pandemic (

Image: STRINGER / EPA-EFE / REX)

A saleswoman at a wet market in Wuhan is the earliest known case of the Covid pandemic, a new report has claimed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) previously said a 41-year-old accountant who lived and had no connection with living 30 km (19 miles) from Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in China was “patient zero” of the pandemic.

But now it has been claimed that there were cases of Covid before this accountant was infected.

It did so despite the fact that the zoonotic virus was believed to have come from the wet market and contributed to theories that the virus might have leaked from a laboratory.

The new study was published Thursday in the journal Science by Michael Worobey, director of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.

Worobey found inconsistencies in the original timeline by going through medical journals and media reports.

A butcher selling yak meat in a wet market (stock image)
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

The accountant first reported his symptoms on December 16, several days later than originally known.

However, he had a dentist appointment on December 8, which the study found caused confusion as he thought he was “patient zero” when he actually had problems with his teeth.

When he showed symptoms, there were several cases of workers in the Huanan market, Worobey said.

The study goes through the chronology of the outbreak and finds that a high proportion of the early cases are either workers in the market or have a connection to it.

This means that a seafood seller in the Huanan market is now considered the first known case of Covid.

It adds that the earliest and most symptomatic cases were related to the western part of the market where raccoons were imprisoned, providing further evidence of the animal-human origins of the pandemic that has dominated the world since then.

“In this city of 11 million people, half of the early cases are related to a location the size of a soccer field,” Worobey said New York Times.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was at the center of the Covid outbreak
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Image:

WEibo)

“It becomes very difficult to explain this pattern if the outbreak doesn’t start in the market.”

The new study did not resolve the debate about the origin of the virus, as many still argue that it leaked from a laboratory, particularly the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is one campus about eight miles from the Huanan market on the other Side of the Yangtze River.

Studies of changes in the genome of the virus, including one of Worobey himself, suggest that the first infection occurred around mid-November, weeks before the first known case.

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