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Party Zero: Inside the birthday party responsible for spreading COVID-19 across the globe.

On March 5, 2020, in a home in the fancy upmarket area of Westport, Connecticut, USA, a 40th birthday was held.

About 50 guests turned up to celebrate, drink and nibble from a lavish buffet at the hostess’s home. At the time, the small town had not a single case of coronavirus.

After the frivolities, the group of partygoers dispersed back home, to work, school and other gatherings. Some went back to New York City and other parts of the US. One man flew back home to South Africa.

WATCH: Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s update on Australia’s restrictions.

Video by Ten

Little did they know they had all been exposed to COVID-19.

In fact, the New York Times reports more than half of the group are now infected with the highly contagious virus.

The South African man started to feel ill on his flight home. Julie Endich, a fellow party guest, felt the effects three days later, writing on Facebook about her chest pains and 104F degree fever, remarking that it “felt like she was dying”.

“I woke up that morning, with incredible chest pain, tightness and heaviness like someone was standing on my chest,” she wrote.

“As the day went on I started to get body aches, chills, fever and headache. It hit me fast. It felt like the flu x 2. I couldn’t move, I was bedridden.”

The soirée is now being labelled ‘Party Zero’ and “may be an example of the kind of thing we call a super-spreading event,” epidemiologist William Hanage told the Times.

To put the spread into perspective, the 28,000 strong town of Westport had zero cases of coronavirus on March 5.

Eleven days later it had 85 positive cases of COVID-19. Westport, with less than one per cent of the state’s population, now makes up more than one-fifth of its infections. Fairfield County, which Westport is a part of, makes up 65 per cent of the state’s total, and 10 people have now died in the state of Connecticut from coronavirus.

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A similar phenomenon was witnessed in Italy. The first infections started in the north – in small towns – but have now taken over the entire country. It has become the worst-affected place in the world, above even China, where the virus began in the city of Wuhan.

Drive-thru testing was conducted for party guests of the Westport event, but authorities soon realised that tracing their movements in the days after the party was near impossible.

They all went to different schools, workplaces, parties, and even countries.

“One of the party guests later acknowledged attending an event with 420 other people,” Mark A.R. Cooper, the director of the Westport Weston Health District, told the Times.

As schools and restaurants and public buildings were shut down to try and stem the spread in Westport, the rumours and blame game started.

Who hosted the party? Who attended?

“This could have been any of us,” Jim Marpe, first selectman of Westport,  said in a message on the town’s website, as he tried to calm the community.

Here, in Australia, cases of coronavirus are also on the rise. Eight people have died and at the time of writing 2,300 are infected. NSW seems to be Australia’s hotspot, with the number of people infected rising above 1,000 today.

“Visits to your premises, to your house, to your residence, should be kept to a minimum and with very small numbers of guests. We don’t want to be overly specific about that, we want Australians to exercise their common sense. So that means barbecues of lots of friends, or even family, extended family, coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and those sorts of things, we can’t do those things now,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a press conference on Tuesday night.

As isolating and hard as that sounds, it’s important to remember ‘party zero.’

Now, more than ever, while our cases are still relatively low – it’s important to stay home and stay isolated.

Feature image: Getty.

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It’s okay to feel this way, but it’s also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus – How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here.

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