According to leaked documents viewed by Wall Street Journal (WSJ), a Chinese woman named Wei Guixian has been identified as the first person from the Huanan Market in Wuhan to test positive for COVID-19. The woman is apparently a live-seafood seller at the market where the virus was believed to have emerged.
The 57-year-old had started to feel sick on 10 December last year and sought some treatments at a local clinic where she received an injection. She was there to seek treatment for what she thought was a simple cold. WSJ noted that she did not realised it was a new disease nor how serious it is.
The woman reportedly said to a Chinese news outlet 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.”
She potentially spread this new coronavirus to countless people when she ventured out to seek treatment and then went back to work.
However, when she continued to feel ill, the woman went to Wuhan’s The Eleventh Hospital where the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her. They prescribed “some pill,” she said.
After that, she went back to the earlier clinic to ask for more injections.
Wei said, “By then I felt a lot worse and very uncomfortable, and I did not have the strength or energy.”
By 16 December, Wei visited one of the city’s biggest hospitals, the Wuhan Union Hospital, where a doctor diagnosed her with an illness described as “ruthless”. He reportedly told her that several other people from Huanan had already presented at the hospital with similar symptoms.
Eight days since she started to feel ill, Wei, barely conscious, was finally admitted into the hospital.
According to WSJ, the hospital confirmed that she was one of the first cases of this current global pandemic. She was quarantined in late December and by then, the doctors had confirmed that the respiratory illness people were starting to suffer was connected to the seafood market.
Fortunately for so-called “patient zero”, she recovered in January and has left the hospital. However, one of Wei’s daughter and her niece were also infected by the same virus.
Wei told The Paper that she thinks she might have caught the virus by using the same toilet in the market shared by wild meat sellers.
The real patient zero still a mystery
While the Chinese government did not publicly confirm a virus outbreak until early January, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced on 21 December that Wei was one of the first 27 patients it has identified with COVID-19.
Though Wei was labelled as “patient zero” from the Huanan Market, the first person to actually contract the diseases is still a mystery. Finding this person could be key in helping scientists counter the spread of this deadly coronavirus.
On 13 March, South China Morning Post (SCMP) published an article noting that the first case of COVID-19 in China could be traced back to around 17 December.
In the report, SCMP noted that at least 266 people were identified so far as being infected last year, all of whom were placed under medical surveillance by Chinese authorities. Some of these cases might have been backdated after specimens taken from these suspected cases were later tested by health authorities, said SCMP.
The article explained that interviews with whistle-blowers from the medical community suggest that doctors in China only realised they were facing a new virus later in December.
From the day of the first case on 17 November, between one to five new cases were reported daily. After a month, the total number of infections were 27. But by 20 December, the total number of confirmed cases soared to 60.
Following this, a doctor from Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, Zhan Jixian, informed local health authorities that the disease was in fact a new coronavirus. By then, over 180 people had been infected, though not all were identified by healthcare professionals at the time.
By the end of 2019, there were 266 cases. The next day, on 1 January 2020, the number of cases reached 381.
Additionally, a report published in medical journal The Lancet by Chinese doctors from Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, which treated some of the earliest patients, put the date of the first known infection on 1 December.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on its website that the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in China could be traced back to 8 December.