A man from China’s Hubei province may have been the first person to have contracted the novel coronavirus — back in mid-November, according to a new report.
The 55-year-old man contracted the potentially deadly bug, now known as COVID-19 on Nov. 17, according to government data reviewed by the South China Morning Post.
Chinese authorities have so far identified at least 266 people who were infected last year — and some of the cases were likely back-dated after health authorities tested specimens taken from suspected patients, according to the report.
Medical community whistleblowers say Chinese doctors only realized they were dealing with a new disease in late December.
From Nov. 17 onward, one to five new cases were reported each day in China. On December 27, Zhang Jixian, a doctor from Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, confirmed to national health authorities that a new coronavirus was to blame for the illness.
By then, more than 180 people had been infected, though doctors might not have been aware of every case at the time.
Now, scientists are grappling to identify “patient zero” — which they say could help them confirm the source of the deadly bug. The current understanding is that the infection was passed on to humans through a wild animal, possibly a bat.
Of the first nine cases reported in November – four men and five women, all between 39 and 79 – none have been confirmed as “patient zero.”
Some reported coronavirus cases may date back even earlier than those reviewed by the paper, the outlet reported.
China’s first confirmed COVID-19 case was on Dec. 8, according to the World Health Organization’s website, but that organization does not track the disease itself and obtains information as the affected nations provide it.
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