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On Monday, a World Health Organization (WHO) official noted that she suspected coronavirus was able to spread with human-to-human transmission “right from the start” on Dec. 31, 2019, according to the Daily Caller.
Other WHO officials denied suggestions of human-to-human transmission and instead listened to Chinese authorities on the subject of viral transmission during the following weeks. Chinese doctors allegedly knew about the transmission between humans weeks prior to Dec. 31.
“Right from the start, from the first notification we received on the 31st of December, given that this was a cluster of pneumonia—I’m a MERS specialist, so my background is in coronaviruses and influenza—so immediately thought, given that this is a respiratory pathogen, that of course there may be human-to-human transmission,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove during a press briefing Monday.
WHO authorities continued to echo Chinese authorities despite the apparent suspicions of Van Kerkhove. The organization continued to state that healthcare workers in Wuhan were not being infected with the virus into mid-January.
Doctor Lu Xiaohong told news outlets that doctors were being infected and the Wall Street Journal also reported on Chinese doctors who knew of the human-to-human transmission since December. Chinese authorities attempted to censor anyone who spoke out on the subject.
A study conducted by The Lancet noted that just 27 of 41 coronavirus patients showed links to the Huanan seafood market by January 2, which had been considered the locus of the contagion.
A January 12 press release from the WHO said: “Based on the preliminary information from the Chinese investigation team, no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission and no health care worker infections have been reported.”
“At this stage, there is no infection among healthcare workers, and no clear evidence of human to human transmission.”
The press release was issued the day after Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang became infected with the virus. Wenliang was punished by authorities after attempting to warn others about the virus.
In a Jan. 13 press release, the WHO said: “To date, there has been no suggestion of human to human transmission of this new coronavirus. There have been no infections reported among health care workers, which can be an early indicator of person to person spread.”
On Jan. 14 the WHO tweeted: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China.”
Also on Jan. 14, Van Kerkhove said, “it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families,” but added, “it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission.”
The virus had already spread to the US by the time the WHO acknowledged any evidence of human-to-human transmission on Jan. 22.