COVID-19’s patient zero may have been identified. Albeit hesitant to take any information coming out of China with more than a grain of salt, new information may give insight into the beginning of the virus believed to have “jumped” from humans to bats. The Wall Street Journal identified a 57-year old woman who is a seafood merchant at Wuhan’s Huanan market where the virus appears to have started, as the first person to test positive. The woman, Wei Guixian, sold live shrimps, and started to feel sick December 10t.h.
A mere “eight days later, the 57-year-old was barely conscious in a hospital bed, one of the first suspected cases in a coronavirus epidemic that has paralyzed China and gripped the global economy” reported the Journal.
Chinese news outlet The Paper released an interview with the woman in which she described her journey surviving the virus. “I felt a bit tired, but not as tired as previous years…I thought it was the flu” she explained. However, eight days later she was barely conscious. “The doctor at The Eleventh Hospital could not figure out what was wrong with me and gave me pills,” she said.
Wei continued to get worse and went to another larger hospital, the Wuhan Union Hospital, where a doctor “described her illness as ‘ruthless’ and told her that several other people from Huanan had already come in with similar symptoms.” Once doctors made the connection between the virus and the seafood market in late December, Wei was quarantined.
A statement from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on December 31st declared Wei was amongst the first 27 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and one of the 24 cases that had direct Huanan Market links. Wei has recovered and believes she may have been infected from a market toilet that was shared with wild meat sellers. Wei believes if the Chinese government had publicly confirmed the outbreak earlier than January, “a lot fewer people would have died.”
South China Morning Post reported that the Chinese government has identified 266 people who had medical care for the infection at some point in 2019 indicating Wei could be “patient zero” but certainty is not guaranteed.