Wuhan market may not be only source of coronavirus

A vendor selling seafood at a market in Wuhan on Jan 24, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • The seafood market in Wuhan may not be the only source of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, according to a Chinese pulmonary disease specialist.

Dr Huang Chaolin, vice-director of Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, revealed in a recent interview with business magazine Caixin that there might be multiple places where the virus was first transmitted to humans.

Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital is one of the city's designated hospitals to admit patients infected with the new virus.

Dr Huang and his team re-cently published a paper in The Lancet, the world's leading general medical journal, about some early findings from the clinical data of the first 41 novel coronavirus cases.

The first patient, who was admitted to Dr Huang's hospital on Dec 1 last year, had no direct exposure to Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which was previously considered the source of the epidemic, and his family had no fever or respiratory symptoms, according to the paper.

Among the subsequent three patients who were admitted on Dec 10, two had no exposure to the seafood market. In total, only 27 of the 41 cases had exposure to the marketplace.

"Judging from the whole situation, the seafood market may not be the only source. (The origin of the novel coronavirus) might be multi-source," Dr Huang said.

But no clues about other sources have been discovered.

The Huanan seafood market is located in the downtown area of Wuhan city's Jianghan district, less than 1km away from the Hankou railway station in Hubei province.

Besides seafood, poultry and game meat were also sold in the market before it was shut down on Jan 1.

Experts at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention had previously isolated the novel coronavirus successfully in the environmental samples collected from the market. Thirty-three of 585 samples from the market were found to contain the nucleic acid of the virus.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2020, with the headline Wuhan market may not be only source of coronavirus. Subscribe