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Ever since the coronavirus outbreak started, the general public has assumed the virus started in Wuhan, China. Could it actually be Italy?

Coronavirus outbreak: Is China suggesting it started in Italy?

Ever since the first COVID-19 case was reported, the general public has assumed the virus started in Wuhan, China. However, China seeks to change the public opinion by trying to prove Italy is responsible for the coronavirus outbreak. In a new study put out by the National Cancer Institute, research suggests the virus was making its way through Italy up to three months before the outbreak began in Wuhan. 

This isn’t the first time China has pointed at other countries as the source of the coronavirus outbreak. A study done by independent Spanish scientists suggested the virus began in Spain, a notion China quickly supported. Chinese officials also accused the U.S. military of bringing the virus to Wuhan last year during the World Military Games. 

Neither study done by the NCI or the Spanish scientists has been backed by further scientific studies – the Spanish study wasn’t even published in a journal. Yet it does support the claim made by the World Health Organization in the past that they are unclear whether Wuhan, China was the true epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Regarding a new investigation into the virus’s origins, WHO stated: “Where an epidemic is first detected does not necessarily reflect where it started.”

January 2020: China is the center

When the word “coronavirus” started appearing in news outlets worldwide, the news was focused on the city of Wuhan, China. What seemed to be a mysterious illness quickly grew out of control, as the city shut down to try and contain it within their borders. As we all know, their attempts didn’t work out so well.

By March 2020, nearly every country worldwide had cases as the coronavirus reached its peak. With the virus spreading worldwide, stories emerged of what caused COVID-19’s rapid contagion. A popular conspiracy theory alleged that COVID-19 was a biological weapon produced in China which accidentally leaked early, infecting people worldwide at an uncontrollable rate. There’s also the forever popular “bat soup” theory. 

While we don’t know for certain what happened, the general consensus is that some virus in Wuhan, China mutated into the COVID-19 virus we’ve come to know so well. The first official case defined as COVID-19 was discovered in Wuhan, thus many deemed it the “Wuhan virus” as well. 

Finding patient zero

Like most pandemic situations, scientists from WHO and other health organizations internationally started hunting for the first COVID-19 patient. Finding “patient zero” is always a key step when handling a virus outbreak. Scientists in China found who they believed to be patient zero in Wuhan, a fifty-five-year old man who caught the virus on November 17th, 2019. 

However, the study done by the National Cancer Institute suggested an Italian resident was the true patient zero of the coronavirus outbreak. In September 2019, the NCI hosted an experimental lung cancer treatment for Italian patients. When looking back at the results, 14% of participants had COVID-19 antibodies in their lungs. 

Considering the first coronavirus case in Italy wasn’t announced until January 31st, 2020, this is a big deal. Not only does this study imply patient zero was an Italian resident, but the true epicenter of the pandemic was Italy, not China as previously believed. 

Mixed results

However, the study done by Spanish researchers found samples of coronavirus in wastewater in Spain dating back to March 2019. While it’s unknown if the virus transmitted to anyone at this time, it’s evident that the coronavirus was around Spain in early 2019.

Both studies done by the National Cancer Institute and Spanish researchers show the coronavirus outbreak most likely began in Europe, but at the time it first appeared, we’re unclear about what kind of virus it was and whether it was as severe and as contagious as it is now.

The world is still at odds about where the coronavirus originated and scientists are working hard to provide an answer. More insight on the virus’s origins will help deal with the pandemic at hand and prepare the world for pandemics looming in our future. 


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