(NY DAILY NEWS) — A woman who sells live shrimp at the Chinese market where the coronavirus outbreak began has been revealed as the first patient to test positive for the new disease, according to a government document leaked to the media this week.
The 57-year-old seafood merchant, whose story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, began feeling sick on Dec. 10 and later became one of dozens of workers at Wuhan’s Huanan Market who were diagnosed with the virus.
Wei Guixian has since recovered, but she had an awful time battling a ruthless disease that’s now infected more than half a million people and killed at least 25,000 around the world.
Wei, who has now been described as a likely “patient zero,” initially thought she was getting a cold, so she began taking medicine and went back to work.
“I felt a bit tired, but not as tired as previous years,” the woman told Chinese news outlet The Paper, according to a translation by Australia’s News.com.au.
“Every winter, I always suffer from the flu,” she reportedly said. “So I thought it was the flu.”
But about a week later, Wei was nearly unconscious in a hospital bed.
She was treated and eventually quarantined, but those last two weeks in December were crucial for the spread of the virus.
Wei told the Journal that the vendors who worked around her, one of her daughters, her niece and the niece’s husband all became sick. She believes she might have contracted the virus in a toilet she shared with other sellers at the market, according to the Journal.
Researchers are still working to determine exactly where and how the virus originated. Chinese officials believe the viral infection may have originated from contact with animals, possibly bats, at the Wuhan market, before it began spreading from person to person. The market also sells birds, rabbits, hedgehogs, frogs and even snakes.
Wei was released from the hospital in January as Chinese officials tried to suppress reports about the new virus. The country eventually acknowledged the threat later that month and took drastic steps to contain the outbreak.
The measures have proven successful as the number of new cases that Chinese authorities have reported each day has dramatically gone down this month. But COVID-19 has become a relentless global problem, with Italy and Spain seeing hundreds of deaths a day and the U.S. now topping the chart with the most infections, more than 90,000.