Tracing COVID-19 'patient zero' is a challenging task: Chinese experts

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Staff members check the names of people involved in throat swab collection at a health observation point converted from a hotel at Longgang District of Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, Feb. 27, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

China is making efforts to trace COVID-19 "patient zero," which remains a challenging scientific issue, Chinese experts said Monday.

It's challenging to trace COVID-19 "patient zero," as it involves a large volume of complicated data, and the early cases might include asymptomatic infections short of medical records, Liu Peipei, an expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press conference.

"Patient zero" is often used to refer to the first person infected with the virus in an epidemic.

Wang Guiqiang, an expert from the infectious disease department of Peking University First Hospital, said tracing COVID-19 "patient zero" is of great value to virus source tracing, epidemic control as well as prevention for the next epidemic.

Besides China, countries affected by COVID-19 all have their own "patient zero," which also needs to be traced, Wang added.

Jin Qi, head of the Institute of Medical Biology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said "patient zero" has not been confirmed for the 1918 influenza pandemic, AIDS and the H1N1 flu that broke out in 2009. Tracing "patient zero" is a multi-disciplinary problem that requires a great deal of work from the medical and scientific circles.

In the early stage of the epidemic, Chinese scientists quickly identified the pathogen, making an important contribution to the global epidemic control, Jin said.

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