Studies led by UArizona virus expert link origin of COVID-19 pandemic to China market

Jul 27, 2022, 4:15 AM
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)...
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

PHOENIX — A pair of studies led by a virus expert from the University of Arizona linked the likely origin of the COVID-19 pandemic to live animals sold at a market in China.

Dr. Michael Worobey and a team of researchers traced the pandemic’s start to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, according to one study published Tuesday.

Foxes, raccoon dogs and other live mammals susceptible to the virus were sold at the market before the start of the pandemic.

Those animals likely got COVID from wild bats or Chinese farms, according to a second study published Tuesday.

The transmission of the virus from animals to human likely happened on two occasions in late November 2019, the study said.

“In a city covering more than 3,000 square miles, the area with the highest probability of containing the home of someone who had one of the earliest COVID-19 cases in the world was an area of a few city blocks, with the Huanan market smack dab inside it,” Worobey said in a press release.

The peer-reviewed studies “virtually eliminate alternative scenarios that have been suggested as origins of the pandemic,” according to the release.

Scientists also created a detailed map of how the virus spread from the Wuhan market.

The researchers said that 155 of the initial 174 COVID-19 cases identified by the World Health Organization in December 2019 were in Wuhan.

By February 2020, cases had spread to the areas in Wuhan with highest population density.

“This tells us the virus was not circulating cryptically,” Worobey said. “It really originated at that market and spread out from there.”

Arizona health officials have documented more than 2.2 million people in the state with over 30,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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Studies led by UArizona virus expert link origin of COVID-19 pandemic to China market