What is a super-spreader?

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.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

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.

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