Wuhan virus: Seafood market may not be only source of novel coronavirus, says expert

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

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

Professor 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.

Prof Huang and his team have recently published a paper in the Lancet, the world's leading general medical journal, about some early findings on the clinical data of the first 41 novel coronavirus cases.

The first patient, who was admitted to Huang's hospital on Dec 1, 2019, had no direct exposure to Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which was previously considered as the source of the epidemic, and his family had no fever or respiratory symptoms, according to the paper.

Among the following 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, said the paper.

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

But no clues about other sources have been discovered.

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

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When The Straits Times visited Wuhan on Jan 10, 2020, residents in the central Chinese city appeared unperturbed by the mysterious viral outbreak. The Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market is believed to be the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic.

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 have 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.

As of the end of Thursday (Jan 30), the novel coronavirus had claimed 213 lives and infected 9,692 people nationwide in China.

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