Coronavirus Question: What Is a Super Spreader? A Scary Infectious Disease.

Elizabeth McGraw
·1 min read

As the emerging Wuhan coronavirus outbreak dominates the daily news, you might be wondering just how the pathogen is working its way around the world. This virus travels from place to place by infecting one person at a time. Some sick people might not spread the virus much further, but it looks like some people infected with the novel coronavirus are what epidemiologists call “super spreaders.”

Elizabeth McGraw, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University, explains just what that means and why super spreaders can be crucial to a disease’s transmission.

What is a super spreader?

Researchers currently estimate that a person carrying the Wuhan coronavirus will, on average, infect approximately 2.6 people.

Recent reports out of Wuhan also cite a case of a single patient who infected 14 health care workers. That qualifies him as a super spreader: someone who is responsible for infecting an especially large number of other people.

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