What is patient zero? Why is it important to find patient zero in an outbreak and is there any previous examples? – The Sun

PATIENT Zero is a term used by Doctors when a disease first breaks out.

But what does patient zero mean and who is it used to describe?

What does patient zero mean?

Patient zero is a term used to describe the first human infected by a disease.

The disease they have can either be viral or bacterial and it is usually the least mutated form of the illness.

Many scientists and officials do not like the term and they try to avoid the term all together.

Associate Professor of pathobiological sciences, Thomas Friedrich, said: “Identifying one person as the patient zero, on the one hand may give an incorrect impression about how the disease emerges in the first place and, on the other hand, insinuate that somebody should be blamed for this outbreak, when that's not really appropriate.”

He added: “Nonetheless, it's important scientifically and for people and public health to understand index cases so that we know how diseases are coming into a community and how to stop their spread.”

Why is it so important to find patient zero during a disease outbreak?

While many don’t like the term – a lot of scientists recognise the fact that it is important to analyse the first person to spread a disease.

Because the disease they are carrying is in its most basic form, it can be invaluable to medics.

Finding the patient zero will allow medics to determine where it came from.

This in turn can give medics a way to stem, control and learn more about the outbreak.

What examples are there?

The most famous patient zero was “Typhoid Mary”.

Her real name was Mary Mallon and she was just 15 years old when she emigrated from Ireland to the US in 1884.

It is believed she was the cause of a typhoid epidemic which plagued New York.

It is understood she was responsible for 51 cases of typhoid and three deaths.

Another patient zero was Mabalo Lokela. It is believed he was the first person to contract Ebola during the outbreak in 2014.


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