• Alysa Salzberg

What does it mean to identify a “patient zero”?

The world is a mess right now. What would happen if everyone said it started with you?


That’s the case for Wei Guixian, a shrimp seller at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China. In early December, she began to suffer from symptoms of what appeared to be a flu, but doctors couldn’t precisely diagnose or cure her.


According to a number of publications who’ve picked up the story, she is coronavirus’s patient zero.


….But many other publications – for instance, this one - have reported that the virus might have existed at least as early as November.


That begs the question, why has Wei Guixian been singled out? Maybe it speaks to our craving for answers in the midst of this crisis, or a need to put a human face on an invisible enemy.


Read on to learn more about the medical and social implications of identifying a patient zero.


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