The sprawling market of more than 20 streets spanned two sides of a main road in an upscale neighbourhood of the commercial district of Hankou. Racks of meat were hung on hooks or spilled out on plastic mats. Workers walked around in welly boots. Drains lined the kerb alongside stores selling everything from live poultry to seafood and cooking ingredients. It was crowded but clean.
So, in mid-December when Lan, who sold dried seafood at one of more than 1,000 stalls in Huanan, felt unwell, he thought little of it. He stayed home to rest but after losing 3kg in just a few days, he decided to go to his regular hospital for a check up.