By Daniel R. Lucey M.D., MPH, FIDSA
In a growing series of events in Beijing over the past 48 hours a new outbreak has been reported with an epidemiological link to the largest food market, called “Xinfadi”, in the city. The main China Center for Disease Control in Beijing, and the overarching China National Health Commission, immediately began reporting details of the outbreak investigation. Media reports from Caixin News, CGTN.com (the China Global Television Network website), Reuters, Bloomberg News and others have added information. As of Sunday morning, at least 51 symptomatic persons and at least 50 asymptomatic persons, have been reported linked to this market.
The Fengtai district where the Xinfadi market has been reported to have been put on a “wartime footing” to stop the epidemic. Several other markets in Beijing have also been shutdown, as have all sports events, and tour groups. School openings have been delayed until further notice. At least two cases have been found in Liaoning province to the northeast of Beijing.
The source of this outbreak is unknown, as is the source of the Wuhan outbreak linked initially to a market (“Huanan Seafood”) closed on January 1 — 166 days ago.
As in the Wuhan market, “environmental samples” from this Beijing market have been reported positive — 40 in total so far. Of these, only one specific location in the Xinfadi market has been named, a cutting board used for (imported) salmon. Caixin News reported June 13 that the salmon in the Xinfadi market came from the Jinshen Seafood market about 8km away in Beijing. Caixin News also reported that the salmon was imported from Norway and Denmark. To my knowledge, there is no evidence of salmon anywhere infected with SARS-CoV-2.
As with the Huanan Wuhan market in December 2019, the spread of the virus in the Xinfadi Beijing market in June 2020, could have occurred in at least three ways: (1) Person-to-person; (2) Animal to person; (3) Both 1 and 2.
Preliminary reporting on the genetic sequence of a Xinfadi market-associated virus isolate, reported today by Reuters, is that the virus is from a different continent (not Asia or Americas or Africa). One can anticipate official reports of several isolates from patients and from “environmental samples” in the next few days.
Daniel Lucey, M.D. MPH, FIDSA, FACP, is an infectious diseases physician and adjunct professor of infectious diseases at Georgetown University Medical Center, a senior scholar at the Georgetown University O’Neil Institute, Anthropology Research Associate, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Global Health Committee.He has served as a volunteer medical responder to outbreaks that included the West Africa Ebola crisis. He has collected information on outbreaks starting in 2001 with cases of anthrax in 2001, and including smallpox vaccination 2002, SARS 2003, H5N1 Flu 2004, MERS in 2013, and Ebola in April, 2014, He has gathered, and updated information on the spread of the coronavirus here since Jan. 6.