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Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2020 Feb 20;226:113490. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2020.113490. [Epub ahead of print]

First respiratory transmitted food borne outbreak?

Author information

Department of Mathematics and Statistics (Faculty of Social Sciences), University of Helsinki, Finland; Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine), University of Helsinki, Finland. Electronic address:


The world is faced with a remarkable coronavirus outbreak with epicentre in Wuhan, China. Altogether 40554 cases have been confirmed globally with novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) until February 10, 2020. Rigorous surveillance in other countries is required to prevent further global expansion of the outbreak, but resolving the exact mechanism of the initial transmission events is crucial. Most initial cases had visited Huanan South Seafood Market in Wuhan selling also various exotic live animals. Based on the limited initial human-to-human transmission and timely clustering of cases in Huanan market among elderly men, coupled with knowledge that coronaviruses are derived from animals and relationship of SARS-CoV-2 to bat coronavirus, zoonotic transmission in the first instance is probable. To target the actions, similar epidemiological actions to human cases are needed with animal or food exposures. According to current information, an exceptionally wide contamination of seafood market might explain the initiation of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. Seafood tanks, air contamination by live animals or rodents are possibilities, but sold animals normally come from various sources. The mode of transmission may become clearer in future: usually in outbreak investigations, hindsight is easy, but for now information about the initial source of this outbreak is limited.


2019-nCoV; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of competing interest None.

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