The first person with COVID-19 caught it from the Wuhan seafood market in December 2019.


Unconfirmed. The identity of ‘patient zero’ has not been confirmed. 


The identity of the first person to contract the COVID-19 illness has not been confirmed. A huge effort has been put in to try to identify ‘patient zero’ as this will help officials understand where the virus (SARS-COV-2) came from and how it spread. This information can be vital in understanding how to slow the spread of the virus, and prevent future pandemics. 

Not all the data about the outbreak has been made publicly available, therefore there are conflicting reports about when the first official case was recognised by medical professionals, with 17th November, 1st December the 8th December 2019 all being given by different sources as the date of the first reported case. The first official case reported by the Chinese authorities was on the 31st December 2019. According to the WHO, ‘the first human cases of COVID-19 were identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019’.

As we have previously written, whilst the origin of the virus (SARS-COV-2) has not been confirmed, it is thought to have been transmitted to humans from animals. As the Lancet states, ‘Scientists from around the world overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.’  According to the WHO this coronavirus probably has an ecological reservoir in bats. The virus may then have spread directly or indirectly to humans at a live animal market in Wuhan, but this has not been confirmed. On the origins of the outbreak the CDC says, ‘many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread.’


thelancet.com: Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical health professionals of China in combating COVID-19

WHO: Q&A on coronaviruses

CDC: COVID-19 emergence

BBC: Who is ‘patient zero’ in the coronavirus outbreak?

The Wall Street Journal: How It All Started: China’s Early Coronavirus Missteps

New Scientist: The hunt for patient zero: Where did the coronavirus outbreak start?

Origins of Claim


“The World Health Organisation was notified on 31 December 2019 about an outbreak on pneumonia in Wuhan. Of the initial 41 people who were hospitalised with pneumonia who were officially identified as having laboratory confirmed SARS-COV-2 by 2 January 2020 two thirds were exposed to the market [Wuhan seafood market]. The market was closed on 1 January 2020 for sanitary procedures and disinfection. 33 out of 585 environmental samples obtained from the market indicated evidence of corona virus (COVID-19)”