Science journal report suggests first COVID-19 case was Wuhan wet market, as originally suspected

A leading U.S. scientist has examined the timelines of the illness and concluded that the first known case was at the infamous market

Updated: November 19, 2021 - 11:52am

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A new report in the influential journal Science suggests the World Health Organization has most likely gotten the telling of the chronology of the early pandemic wrong.

The new analysis suggests that the first person sickened with the novel coronavirus was likely a vendor at the Wuhan animal market, not an accountant who lived many miles from it.

Michael Worobey, a University of Arizona expert in tracing the evolution of viruses, says he discovered several timeline discrepancies when he combed through available public information from medical journals.

Worobey suggests that the vendor's ties to the wet market, paired with an analysis of the connections the earliest hospitalized patients have to the market, suggest the pandemic began there.

"In this city of 11 million people, half of the early cases are linked to a place that’s the size of a soccer field. It becomes very difficult to explain that pattern if the outbreak didn’t start at the market," Worobey says.

Some WHO investigators say the evidence remains insufficient to decisively settle the question of how the pandemic began, arguing that the virus likely infected a "patient zero" elsewhere and the vendor was the one who spread the illness widely at the market such that  critical mass of people became infected. 

Among the earliest explanations was the virus jumped from animal to human after a women ate a bat that she bought at the exotic "wet" food market.

Some data, however, including studies conducted by Worobey, suggest that the first COVID infection happened in mid-November of 2019, at least several weeks prior to the vendor's illness. 

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