The coronavirus outbreak has led to suggestions that some people are “super-spreaders” of the virus.
– What is a super-spreader?
There is no agreed scientific definition of a super-spreader. It is a term used when one person appears to infect significantly more people than would normally be expected.
Possible explanations include super-spreaders secreting more of the virus than other people, or spreading the virus around at a point when they are not showing any symptoms.
Some humans come into contact with a significantly higher number of people than others, such as through their work or lots of close contact travel.
– Is anyone affected by coronavirus a super-spreader?
We do not know, although there are signs that a British businessman could potentially be regarded as a super-spreader.
The World Health Organisation has not defined a super-spreader in relation to coronavirus, and Public Health England will also not use the label for anyone in the latest outbreak.
– What about past epidemics?
In 2015, it was reported that 82 people had been infected in a super-spread, via one hospital patient with Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers).
In the more recent Ebola epidemic in west Africa, most cases are thought to have been traced to a much smaller number of people.
Young schoolchildren in the UK are often regarded as super-spreaders of cold and flu.
Doctors say a virus can spread more easily in schools and nurseries, and then children pass the illnesses on.