Patient zero

  • Patient zero is a relatively new term with roots in the 1980s; it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2005. We will examine the definition of the expression patient zero, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    Patient zero is the first patient infected with a disease in a population. Another term for patient zero is the index patient. It is important to identify patient zero to stop the spread of infectious diseases. Control measures that lessen direct contact with those with transmissible disease or communicable disease can halt the spread of illnesses such as avian flu, swine flu, coronavirus, anthrax, SARS, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, polio, typhoid, cholera, diphtheria, measles, smallpox, pertussis, bubonic plague, meningitis, tuberculosis and ebola. The World Health Organization and the CDC are dedicated to disease control and prevention to promote global health and prevent epidemics and pandemics by studying epidemiology and limiting person-to-person contact with contagion by promoting good hygiene and encouraging vaccination. Quarantine at the beginning of an outbreak can stop infectious disease from being transmitted. The term patient zero was coined in 1987 in the United States at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Gaëtan Dugas was identified as Patient Out-of-California in a study about the origin of the disease in the United States. The term was shortened to Patient O, which was misread as Patient 0, or Patient Zero.



    The hunt for patient zero: Where did the coronavirus outbreak start? (New Scientist Magazine)

    Government records suggest first person infected with new disease may have been a Hubei resident aged 55, but ‘patient zero’ has yet to be confirmed (The South China Morning Post)

    A shrimp peddler at the Chinese market where the coronavirus pandemic likely began has been identified as one of the first victims of the disease — and possibly “patient zero.” (The New York Post)

    Rather, they believe the virus was indeed the result of a zoonotic transmission from a bat to human, but that “patient zero” worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab and then spread the disease to the public. (The Jerusalem Post)

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