British 'superspreader' is linked to 11 Wuhan coronavirus cases, and it shows just how hard it can be to track new virus
A potential "superspreader" may be responsible for at least 11 new coronavirus infections across 3 countries. The case brings lots of questions on the role of "superspreaders" in outbreaks. Superspreaders infect an "unusually" large amount of people with a disease, and according to the BBC, they are a "feature of nearly every outbreak." However, the term does not have strict scientific guidelines. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Health officials in the United Kingdom are scrambling to find anyone who may have had close contact with man being referred to as a "superspreader" after being linked to 11 new infections of the novel coronavirus. The man, said to be in his late 50s, travelled to Singapore for a sales conference from January 20 to 22, where it is thought he caught the novel virus, several news outlets reported. The man then flew to a ski resort close to the French Alps, before returning to his hometown of Hover and visiting a local pub, The Washington Post reported. While in Singapore, he stayed at the Grand Hyatt and according to the Associated Press; 94 other foreign travellers including some from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, checked in at the same time as the man. The hotel was informed by Singapore's Health Ministry that three other travellers who stayed there were diagnosed with the virus in their home countries of Malaysia and South Korea. The British man only began to show symptoms after he flew to France, where he stayed at a three-story chalet in Contamines-Montjoie close to Mont Blanc with his family for four days. He took an EasyJet flight back to London's Gatewick airport from Geneva, and then went to the Grenadier pub in his hometown. Through out his travel, the man has been linked to 11 infections, including a 9-year-old boy in France. French health officials said two schools the kid visited were shut down, the Guardian reported. Additionally, the AP reported that 61 people including children who may have come in contact with boy had been tested for the virus. All came back negative. Overall, the majority of 11 cases linked to the man stemmed from the mans stay at the chalet, The Post reported. "New cases are all known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France," Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, told The Post. According to the BBC, the man is linked to five of the eight confirmed cases the UK has seen. 'Superspreaders' infect large numbers of people While the the British man has informally been described a "superspreader," the World Health Organization has said the label may be unfair, given that those linked with to him with the virus were in a cluster. Superspreaders infect an "unusually" large amount of people with a disease, and according to the BBC, they are a "feature of nearly every outbreak." However, the term does not have strict scientific guidelines. Superspreaders can have a significant impact on an outbreak. For example a single hospital patient infected 82 others with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, during that outbreak in 2015. When it comes to the Wuhan coronavirus, one person can usually infect one or two people. However, some may infect more and some may infect no one at all. According to the Guardian, the "20/80 rule" has been established in the past 2o years, where a "small core group of about one-in-five people transmit infections to far more people than the majority do." There are several factors that may determine if someone is a superspreader, but nothing is certain. The Guardian reported that immune systems may play a role — whether someone is either really good at suppressing the virus that the person does not feel any symptoms, or the opposite, where the persons immune system does not suppress the virus. Experts told the BBC that some people are "super-shedders" and tend to release more of the virus from their bodies, while others spread more of the virus because they interact with a large amount of people. And while super spreading of this virus "will not significantly change how the disease is managed," the BBC said, it's important not to miss cases of potential superspreaders.
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70% of people infected with the coronavirus did not pass it to anyone, preliminary research shows. Superspreading events account for most transmission.
An average person with the coronavirus infects about two other people, but an infected person sometimes passes...An average person with the coronavirus infects about two other people, but an infected person sometimes passes the virus to far more people during a superspreader event. New research suggests such events, which typically involve indoor gatherings, are responsible for most coronavirus transmission. Experts found that just 20% of coronavirus cases resulted in 80% of transmissions. An estimated 70% of infected patients studied didn't pass the virus at all. Countries may be able to avoid more lockdowns during future waves of infections by targeting locations and activities that beget superspreading. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Superspreader events, in which one person infects a disproportionately large number of others, are the primary means by which the coronavirus spreads, new research suggests. A group of epidemiologists in Hong Kong found that just 20% of cases studied there were responsible for 80% of all coronavirus transmissions. The researchers also found 70% of people infected with the coronavirus didn't pass it to anyone else and that all superspreading events involved indoor social gatherings. "That's the picture we have so far," Ben Cowling, one of the study coauthors, told Business Insider. "Superspreading events are happening more than we expected, more than what could be explained by chance. The frequency of superspreading is beyond what we could have imagined." That information could inform how policymakers craft rules to keep people safe. "Now we know which measures might give you the most bang for your buck — if we could stop the superspreading from happening, we'd benefit the most people," Cowling said. A small number of superspreading events account for most transmission Superspreader events around the world have created clusters of coronavirus infections that cropped up almost overnight. A South Korean churchgoer infected 43 others in February, a singer infected 53 people at a choir practice in Washington a month later, and a New York lawyer was responsible for passing the coronavirus to more than 100 others in his community. For their research, Cowling and his colleagues examined more than 1,000 coronavirus cases in Hong Kong between January 23 and April 28. They found that superspreading was the primary means of transmission in the city. About 350 of the cases analyzed were a result of community spread, while the rest were imported from other countries. Within the community-spread cases, more than half were connected to six superspreading events. The term "superspreader" refers to an infected person who transmits the virus to more people than a typical infected person would. A virus' R0 value (pronounced "R-naught") refers to the average number of people that one sick person goes on to infect in a group with no immunity. The R0 of the coronavirus so far seems to hover between 2 and 2.5. But in the case of these Hong Kong superspreading events, one person infected at least three times that many people. In fact, 20% of cases caused 80% of transmissions, a majority of which were linked to superspreading events at a wedding, temple, and multiple bars in the city's Lan Kwai Fong district. The remaining 20% of transmissions were result of another just 10% of cases, when infected patients passed along the virus to one, or at most two, other people — generally someone in their households. "Social exposures produced a greater number of secondary cases compared to family or work exposures," the study authors wrote, adding that reducing superspreading events could have a considerable effect in lowering the virus' R0. The 80-20 rule In a New York Times article about his team's study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, Cowling wrote: "You might be wondering if our study, or the experience of Hong Kong, with its small number of total infections, is more broadly representative. We think so." Indeed, other research supports his findings: A 2011 study found that 20% of a population was responsible for 80% of the transmissions of many diseases, including malaria. This is known as the "80-20 rule." Some scientists think that the ratio could be even smaller. A model from researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested only 10% of coronavirus cases accounted for 80% of global transmissions. Preliminary research that examined more than 200 coronavirus cases in Israel found that between 1 and 10% of cases were linked to 80% of transmissions. Another study from Shenzhen, China, yielded a similar conclusion: Between 8 and 9% of cases caused 80% of transmissions. Superspreading events happen in crowded indoor areas Coronavirus superspreader events have shared a few key characteristics: They've involved indoor gatherings in which a lot of people from different households were in close, extended contact. For example, a superspreader event in Arkansas involved a pastor and his wife who attended church events and a Bible study group a few days before they developed coronavirus symptoms. Of the 92 people they came into contact with, 35 got sick. Seven had to be hospitalized. Three died. Offices and restaurants can be infection hot spots too. A study of an outbreak in a call center in Seoul, South Korea, showed that almost half the employees on one floor got infected. Nearly all of them sat in the same section. In that sense, it's not that certain individual people are more contagious than others or shed more virus. Instead, there's a type of activity that gives people access to a greater number of people in areas conducive to the virus' spread, Cowling said. Research has found time and again that the risk of coronavirus transmission is higher indoors in poorly ventilated spaces where lots of people have sustained contact. "You can't have a superspreading event unless there are a lot of people around, so you have to be very careful still about gatherings of people of any size — that includes religious services," William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University, previously told Business Insider. If we target gatherings that could become superspreader events, we could avoid more lockdowns Cowling said the study findings could inform countries' responses to future waves of coronavirus infections. "We'll be in a much better position to deal with the second wave this fall," he said. "This knowledge gives us the chance to take more measured actions without going into full lockdown again." A few countries, like Japan and South Korea, have already shown that it's possible to ride out an outbreak without dramatically restricting citizens' movements or shutting down all stores, restaurants, and schools. Japan's success stems from adherence to the "3 C's rule." The government told people to avoid closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings — all of which are ripe for superspreading events. Going forward, Cowling thinks other countries could benefit from instituting rules that target the source of most transmissions (in addition to continued contact tracing and testing), rather than blanket shelter-in-place orders. "Anything outdoors is fine. I'm less concerned about protests," he said, adding that restaurants and bars could also probably operate at 50% capacity, with empty tables between diners. "We need to figure out how many people per square meter is acceptable," Cowling said. "Meetings and religious activities could go on, but with reduced numbers of people." SEE ALSO: Coronavirus super-spreader events all have notable similarities — and they reveal the types of gatherings we should avoid for years Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How location data can help track and stop the spread of COVID-19
Solving the mystery of “superspreaders” could help control the coronavirus pandemic.
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