Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market
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|Location||Jianghan, Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Closing date||1 January 2020|
|Number of tenants||1,000+|
|Total retail floor area||50,000 m2 (540,000 sq ft)|
|Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market|
|Literal meaning||Wuhan South China Seafood Wholesale Market|
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (Chinese: 武汉华南海鲜批发市场), also known as the Huanan Seafood Market, is a live animal and seafood market in Jianghan District, Wuhan, Hubei province, China. The market gained media attention after the World Health Organization was notified on 31 December 2019 of an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan. Of the initial 41 people hospitalised with pneumonia who were identified as having laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV infection by 2 January 2020, two-thirds had been exposed to the market. The market was closed on 1 January 2020 for sanitary procedures and disinfection. 33 out of 585 animal specimens taken from the market showed evidence of 2019-nCoV (COVID-19).
Facility and operations
The market occupies over 50,000 m2 (540,000 sq ft) and has over 1,000 tenants. It is the largest seafood wholesale market in Wuhan and Central China, with its western zone known for its wild animals. The market is located in the newer part of the city, near shops and apartment blocks, and is within a couple of blocks from Hankou railway station.
Late in 2019, the market passed city official inspections, according to The Wall Street Journal. However, Time reported it to have had "unsanitary" conditions. Its lanes are narrow and the stalls close together, where livestock were kept in close proximity to dead. It was common to see dead animals skinned in the open. The New York Times reported that "sanitation was dismal, with poor ventilation and garbage piled on wet floors".
Although Huanan Market is known as a seafood market, it was primarily known for the sale of bushmeat (ye wei in Chinese) and other exotic animals due to the demand for such animals for consumption. A price list posted by one vendor on the popular Chinese review site Dazhong Dianping listed 112 items including a number of wild animals. The South China Morning Post reported on 29 January 2020, that the market had a section selling around "120 wildlife animals across 75 species".
According to media reports, besides seafood, items sold at the market included:
- Emmental cheese
- Giant salamanders
- Rabbit organs
- Spotted deer
- Striped bass
- Venomous snakes (including Bungarus multicinctus)
- Wolf puppies
In December 2019, an outbreak of a pneumonia cluster occurred in Wuhan. By 2 January 2020, a new strain of coronavirus, designated (2019-nCoV) was confirmed in an initial 41 people hospitalised with the pneumonia, two-thirds of whom had direct exposure to the market. As coronaviruses (like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) mainly circulate among animals and with a link between the pneumonia outbreak and the market being established, it was suspected that the virus may have been passed from an animal to humans (zoonosis). Snakes or bats have been suggested to be the source of the virus, especially considering the variety of wild animals sold at the market.
Despite the important role that the market played in the epidemic, it is yet unclear whether the novel coronavirus outbreak started in the market. The earliest date for first symptoms was reported as 1 December 2019, in a person who did not have any exposure to the market or to the remaining affected 40 people. 13 of the initial 41 people found with the novel coronavirus had no link with the market, a significant figure according to infectious diseases specialist Daniel Lucey. In a later publication, The Lancet reported that of the first 99 people confirmed with 2019-nCoV in Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital between 1 January and 20 January 2020, 49 had a history of exposure to the market. The publication nevertheless did not opine on whether the market was the origin or just a key link in the epidemic.
In a pursuit to discover the origin of the 2019-nCoV, samples from the market's animals were also taken between 1 January and 12 January 2020. In late January 2020, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the virus was found in 33 out of 585 of those animal specimens, 31 of which came from the area of the market where wildlife was particularly found. This was another indication of the role the market has played, but as yet there has been no official declaration of this site as the origin of the epidemic.
A review published on 24 January 2020, noted that market was not associated with any of the cases outside China.
On 1 January 2020, in response to the initial outbreak of the pneumonia cluster, health authorities closed the market to perform investigations, clean, and disinfect the place. At the time, state-run Xinhua News Agency said that it was being closed for renovations.
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