Woman selling shrimps 'was the first to test positive in Wuhan market'

The hunt for China’s coronavirus ‘patient zero’: The first person to test positive in Wuhan’s infamous food market was a woman selling live shrimps, leaked document reveals

  • Ms Wei lived near the market and had a fever on December 11, a report said
  • Thinking it was the flu, she went to a small clinic while carrying on working
  • She sought help from a big hospital five days later after symptoms worsened
  • But the identity of the very first coronavirus patient in China is still a mystery
  • Classified data show the first infection could be traced back to November 17 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

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

Ms Wei lived in a rented flat less than 500 metres (1,640 feet) from the marketplace and developed a fever on December 11, she told Chinese news outlet The Paper.

Thinking it was the seasonal flu, she went to a small and crowded clinic nearby to seek medical advice, but injections did not cure her illness.

Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (pictured), where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have started, was one of the largest marketplace in Wuhan with throngs of customers daily

The market was shut on January 1 after dozens of workers there had contracted the disease

The Paper did not reveal Ms Wei’s full identity, but according to The Wall Street Journal she is 57 years old and her full name is Wei Guixian. 

Ms Wei, believed to have recovered, recalled her initial symptoms to The Paper: ‘I felt a bit tired, but not as tired as previous years.

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

Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in January that the coronavirus had been passed onto humans by wildlife sold as food in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where Ms Wei worked. 

A woman wears a mask while pushing a wheelbarrow past the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market on January 17. Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in January the coronavirus had been passed onto humans by wildlife sold as food in the market

The trader said she continued to sell seafood in the market while sick and went to a bigger hospital, The Eleventh Hospital of Wuhan, for a second opinion later on.

‘The doctor at The Eleventh hospital could not figure out what was wrong with me and gave me pills.’

She took the medicine but did not feel better. She went back to the small clinic to ask for more injections.

‘But then I felt a lot worse and very uncomfortable. I did not have enough 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 with similar symptoms.

‘At that time, there were many people in the hospital,’ she added.

Ms Wei was one of the first 27 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a statement from Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on December 31. 

Among them, 24 had direct links with Huanan. 

The authority said at the time that no evidence had shown the virus could be passed from human to human.

Out of the first 27 coronavirus patients in Wuhan, 24 had direct links with the seafood market. Pictured, staff sell masks to a man at a Yifeng Pharmacy in Wuhan on January 22

Yet, the identity of the first COVID-19 sufferer, also known as the ‘patient zero’, remains a mystery in China.

Although Ms Wei is the first to test positive in the market, the first known coronavirus patient is reported to be a bed-bound pensioner in his 70s.

The unnamed man developed symptoms on December 1 and had not been to the seafood market beforehand, a doctor told BBC.  

Classified government records, however, showed that the first case of a person suffering from COVID-19 could be traced back to November 17, reported South China Morning Post.

The date is more than seven weeks before Chinese officials announced they had identified a new virus and over two months before various cities in the region went into lockdown to contain the spread of the bug.

Unpublished data showed Chinese authorities have identified at least 266 people who were infected before December 31 – a time when Wuhan authorities were busy punishing a group of doctors for sounding the alarm of a ‘SARS-like’ disease. 

Chinese officials claim the first coronavirus patient fell ill on December 7. 

Paramedics move a patient into the hospital in Manhattan, New York City, on March 25

Beijing is now rejecting the widely held assessment that the city of Wuhan is the birthplace of the global outbreak after the number of daily infections there dropped to zero but soared in Europe.

Dr Zhong Nanshan, the leader of a team of experts appointed by China to tackle the health crisis, last week denied that the bug originated in Wuhan and slammed such claim as ‘irresponsible’.

‘The epidemic of the novel coronavirus pneumonia indeed took place in China, in Wuhan… but it does not mean its source is in Wuhan,’ said Dr Zhong at a press conference.

The pandemic has so far killed more than 22,000 people and infected over 486,000 worldwide. 

China blasts ‘sinister’ US Secretary of State Pompeo after he called the bug ‘Wuhan virus’ 

Pompeo’s call for the virus to be identified by name as the ‘Wuhan virus’ at a virtual meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 7

China is strongly pushing back on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s insistence on referring to the deadly novel coronavirus as the ‘Wuhan virus’ after the city in China where it was first detected.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday that it was an effort to ‘stigmatise China and discredit China’s efforts in an attempt to divert attention and shift responsibilities.’ 

‘He has a very sinister motive,’ Geng told reporters at a daily briefing.

Geng also defended China’s efforts at tackling the virus and denied it was seeking to place responsibility for the outbreak elsewhere.

China has been accused of trying to squelch information about the outbreak during its early stages, and some of its diplomats have openly suggested that the virus may have been brought to China from the United States.

Pompeo’s call for the virus to be identified by name as the ‘Wuhan virus’ at a virtual meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 7 leading industrialised countries resulted in their opting against releasing a group statement.

The World Health Organization and others have cautioned against giving the virus a geographic name because of its global nature.

President Donald Trump has steered away from those terms as critics have said they foster discriminatory sentiments and behaviour against Asians and Asian Americans. 

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