On 31 December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause was reported by health authorities in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, China, and an investigation was launched in early January 2020. These cases mostly had links to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which also sold live animals, consequently, the virus is thought to have a zoonotic origin. The virus that caused the outbreak is known as SARS-CoV-2, a new virus that is closely related to bat coronaviruses, pangolin coronaviruses, and SARS-CoV. It is believed that the virus possibly originated in bats of the Rhinolophusgenus.
The virus was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei, China on 17 November 2019. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic. As of 13 March 2020, over 142,000 cases have been confirmed in more than 130 countries and territories, with major outbreaks in mainland China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. As of 13 March, at least 5,300 people have died from the disease and more than 70,900 have recovered.
Although Huanan Market is known as a seafood market, it was primarily known for the sale of bushmeat (ye weiin 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”.