The first person known to have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus had never visited the city’s seafood market – regarded as the epicentre of the outbreak – according to Chinese researchers, who also called for extra precautions against airborne transmission of the disease between humans.
The researchers, seven of whom work at Wuhan’s Jinyintan hospital, designated for patients with the illness, revealed on Friday in The Lancet medical journal that symptoms of the new disease were first reported on December 1 – much earlier than the Wuhan government’s initial announcement on December 31 of 27 cases of the pneumonia-like infection.According to the report, the first patient had no exposure to the Huanan seafood market which was shut down on January 1 over fears – later confirmed – that the new virus was linked to its trade in wild animals. The researchers added that none of the patient’s family had developed fever or any respiratory symptoms. There was also no epidemiological link between the first patient and the later cases, they found.
The researchers analysed data from 41 patients with confirmed infections who had showed an onset of symptoms up to January 2. Six of those patients died, putting the fatality rate of the group at 15 per cent. The researchers noted that clinical presentations of the patients greatly resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome.
The first patient to die from the new coronavirus had continuous exposure to the market before he was admitted to hospital with a seven-day history of fever, cough and breathing difficulties, according to their report.
Five days after the onset of symptoms, his wife, a 53-year-old woman with no known history of exposure to the market, also presented with pneumonia and was hospitalised in the isolation ward, they said.
The absence of a link to the seafood market is one of the indicators for human-to-human transmission of the virus and the researchers identified another 13 patients who also had no direct exposure to the market.