‘Patient zero’ at Wuhan market identified

The first person from the Wuhan market - where the coronavirus pandemic likely began - to test positive for the virus was a woman selling live shrimps, according to a document leaked to media.

The 57-year-old seafood merchant at Wuhan's Huanan market, who The Wall Street Journal have identified as a woman named Wei Guixian, first started to feel sick on December 10.

Thinking she was getting a cold, she walked to a small local clinic to get some treatment and then went back to work - potentially spreading the virus to countless others.

"I felt a bit tired, but not as tired as previous years," she told Chinese news outlet The Paper, recalling her initial symptoms.

"Every winter, I always suffer from the flu. So I thought it was the flu."

Eight days later, Ms Wei was barely conscious in a hospital bed, one of the first cases in a coronavirus pandemic that has since paralysed countries around the world, sickening half a million people and killing more than 23,000.

After initially visiting her local clinic on December 11 and receiving an injection, Ms Wei sought a second opinion at Wuhan's The Eleventh Hospital when she continued to feel sick.

"The doctor at The Eleventh hospital could not figure out what was wrong with me and gave me pills," she said - but again, these failed to help her recover and she returned to the clinic to ask for more injections.

"By then I felt a lot worse and very uncomfortable," Ms Wei said. "I did not have the strength or energy."

Finally, on December 16, she headed to one of the city's biggest hospitals, the Wuhan Union Hospital, for a proper check. There, a doctor described her illness as "ruthless" and told her that several other people from Huanan had already come in with similar symptoms.

She was finally quarantined in late December, after doctors established the link between the crippling respiratory illness and the seafood market.

According to a statement from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on December 31, Ms Wei was one of the first 27 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, and one of the 24 cases who had direct links to the Huanan Market.


She has recovered since leaving hospital in early January, and told The Paper she believes she may have become infected via a toilet in the market that she shared with wild meat sellers.

Vendors on either side of Ms Wei also contracted COVID-19, as well as members of her family, including one of her daughters and her niece.

The Chinese government did not publicly confirm the virus outbreak until early January, and if they had acted sooner, Ms Wei said, "a lot fewer people would have died".

According to the South China Morning Post, the Chinese government has identified 266 people who were infected in 2019, all of whom came under medical surveillance at some point. While Ms Wei could be "patient zero" from the Huanan Market, the first person in Wuhan to contract the disease remains a mystery.

Scientists expect that finding "patient zero" will help them to trace the source of the virus, generally thought to have jumped to humans from bats.

Originally published as 'Patient zero' at Wuhan market identified

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