The widely believed first case of Covid-19 was a Wuhan accountant. However, symptoms were actually discovered eight days later than originally reported.
This confusion resulted from complications of dental work which made the 41 year-old male sick Dec. 8. Coronavirus caused fever, along with other symptoms, started Dec. 16 after many workers at Huanan markets began to show symptoms.
He lived only 30 km (19 miles) away from the market, and had no connections to it. According to Michael Worobey (head of ecology and evolution biology at Arizona’s Tucson) and author of the study, he was most likely infected by community transmission.
Worobey’s research suggests the Huanan market was the source of the initial outbreak and not just where the SARS-CoV-2 virus was amplified in a super-spreading event.
SARS-CoV-2’s origins are not yet known by scientists. The debate about the origins of SARS-CoV-2 has centered around either a laboratory escape, or an animal spillover. Study results supporting the second hypothesis are supported by studies identifying coronaviruses that were closely related, such as in bats living in limestone caves of northern Laos or Cambodia. This is especially true since wet market sales in Wuhan (including the Huanan centre) have shown live, susceptible animals being sold.
No live mammals collected at the Huanan market or any other live-animal market in Wuhan has been screened for SARS-CoV-2–related viruses, and the Huanan market was closed and disinfected on Jan. 1, Worobey said.
“Nevertheless, that most early symptomatic cases were linked to Huanan Market — specifically to the western section where raccoon dogs were caged — provides strong evidence of a live-animal market origin of the pandemic,” he said.
Although it may never be possible to recover related viruses from animals since they weren’t tested as Covid-19 emerged, conclusive evidence of a Huanan market origin via infected wildlife may come through analysis of spatial patterns of early cases, he said. Worobey stated that additional genomic and epidemiologic data could be used to support the case.
“Preventing future pandemics depends on this effort,” he said.