Amid new claims from China that it may not be the origin of the novel coronavirus sweeping the world, a new report claims that the first people infected with the virus took sick more than a month before China ever admitted the virus existed.
The South China Morning Post has reported that based on Chinese government documents to which it had access, a 55-year-old in Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, contracted the disease on Nov. 17.
That is long before the Dec. 31 notice from the Chinese government that it was dealing with a new disease, according to The New York Times. Other reports have identified the first case as taking place in early December.
The first identified case of the virus is from November 17th, so there’s a good chance it’s been around a fair bit longer than that, possibly as early as the start of October, it’s almost certain that some of us will have had it already.https://t.co/QpEgO7selZ
— Ellis Greenwood (@Ellis_Greenwood) March 13, 2020
The November case was followed by other reported cases, the South China Morning Post reported, claiming that according to the data it saw, “one to five new cases were reported each day.”
There were 27 people infected as of Dec. 15, the report said, with reported cases reaching double digits on Dec. 17.
By Dec. 20, there were 60 cases reported, according to the report.
As of Dec. 27, the date Dr. Zhang Jixian made a report that the disease was a new coronavirus, more than 180 people had been infected.
There were 266 cases on the day China announced the first death, a number that soared to 381 the next day.
Although China at the time said the disease had originated in Wuhan, it has pulled back from that claim.
At a recent briefing, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said “there is simply no basis and no reason to push China for an apology. It is yet undetermined where the virus originated.”
He later issued a tweet alleging the U.S. Army may have brought the virus to China.
2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation! pic.twitter.com/vYNZRFPWo3
— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
Jonathan Mayer, a professor emeritus at the University of Washington’s department of epidemiology, said it is “entirely conceivable” the November time frame is accurate according to The Guardian.
He said officials might not have detected the cases or might not have known what they were dealing with.
He added a third possibility: that the Chinese government suppressed reporting about the disease.
“I have no way of knowing which of these possibilities in fact happened,” Mayer said. “We know that there are reports of early suppression of reports of cases, and the ‘whistleblowers’ dealt with rather severely.”
“Epidemics always have become political,” Mayer said. “Governments seem opposed to admitting that things were handled imperfectly, yet it is only by identifying the imperfections and shortcomings that things can be addressed to do a better job next time.
“With emerging infections,” he added, “there will always be a next time.”
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