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1st known case of coronavirus traced back to November in China

A transmission electron microscope image of a coronavirus.
A transmission electron microscope image of a coronavirus.
(Image: © Cavallini James/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China may have been the first person to have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus spreading across the globe. That case dates back to Nov. 17, 2019, according to the South Morning China Post.

That's more than a month earlier than doctors noted cases in Wuhan, China, which is in Hubei province, at the end of December 2019. At the time, authorities suspected the virus stemmed from something sold at a wet market in the city. However, it's now clear that early in what is now a pandemic, some infected people had no connection to the market. That included one of the earliest cases from Dec. 1, 2019 in an individual who had no link to that seafood market, researchers reported Jan. 20 in the journal The Lancet.

Scientists now suspect this coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, originated in a bat and somehow hopped to another animal, possibly the pangolin, which then passed it on to humans. The disease is now spreading between people without any animal intermediary.

Now, doctors and scientists are trying to trace the virus back to where it originated to learn more about its spread. If, for instance, doctors can find the earliest cases, they may be able to identify the animal host where the virus lurks.

They found that following the Nov. 17 case, about one to five new cases were reported every day and by Dec. 15, the total infections reached 27. Daily cases seem to have increased after that, with the case count reaching 60 by Dec. 20, the SCMP reported.

On Dec. 27, Dr. Zhang Jixian, head of the respiratory department at Hubei Provincial Hospital, reported to health officials in China that a novel coronavirus was causing the disease; by that day, it had infected more than 180 individuals. (Doctors may not have been aware of all of those cases at the time, but only identified those cases after going back over the records, the Morning Post reported.)

Even with this Nov. 17 case identified, doctors can't be certain the individual is "patient zero," or the very first individual to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, and there's a chance even earlier cases will be found, the SCMP reported.

As of March 13, there were nearly 148,000 cases globally and more than 81,000 cases in mainland China, with cases on every continent except Antarctica. Scientists are continuing to study the virus and work on treatments, including a vaccine. A clinical trial of such a vaccine has already started recruiting volunteers in Seattle, Live Science reported

Originally published on Live Science. 

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  • rene
    This item says that, "Scientists now suspect this coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, originated in a bat and somehow hopped to another animal, possibly the pangolin, which then passed it on to humans."

    A quick look at the Wikipedia entry for Pangolin shows that this suspicion has been discounted.
    Reply
  • acquire
    In the article you write:

    "At the time, authorities suspected the virus stemmed from something sold at a wet market in the city. However, it's now clear that early in what is now a pandemic, some infected people had no connection to the market. That included one of the earliest cases from Dec. 1, 2019 in an individual who had no link to that seafood market, researchers reported Jan. 20 in the journal The Lancet."

    Below is the corresponding reference from the linked Lancet article at https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext
    "The symptom onset date of the first patient identified was Dec 1, 2019. None of his family members developed fever or any respiratory symptoms. No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases. The first fatal case, who had continuous exposure to the market, was admitted to hospital because of a 7-day history of fever, cough, and dyspnoea. 5 days after illness onset, his wife, a 53-year-old woman who had no known history of exposure to the market, also presented with pneumonia and was hospitalised in the isolation ward."

    This snippet from the Lancet article does not say what you are claiming it says in your article. It says that "no epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases."

    It does not say that no link was found between the first patient and the market. So both the first patient, and later cases could have contacted it from the market without having contacted it from each other. This is not evidence of previously undetected community spread as your article is attempting to imply.
    Reply