Disease detectives hunting down more information about ‘super spreader’ of Wuhan coronavirus
Jan 23, 2020
CNN – Of all the alarming aspects of the rapidly spreading new virus out Wuhan, China, this is perhaps the most alarming: A single patient has infected 14 health care workers.
That’s what’s called a “super spreader,” and disease detectives are hot on that patient’s trail.
It’s one element to stopping the spread of this coronavirus that’s killed 17 people and infected more than 500 in five different countries, including the United States.
Super spreaders are a crucial part of a disease outbreak.
Think about Mary Mallon, or “Typhoid Mary,” who was responsible for widely spreading typhoid in New York City in the early 1900s.
Or the Chinese doctor who in 2003 spread SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, to four different countries. Or the single patient at a South Korean hospital who in 2015 infected 82 people with MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome.
The Wuhan virus is a cousin of SARS and MERS. All three are coronaviruses.
“You only need one super shedder …”
The presence of a super spreader in Wuhan indicates that the virus can spread with some ease, said Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
He calls them “super shedders,” since they shed the virus — for example, in sneezes or coughs — in larger quantities than most other people.
“You only need one super shedder to say, ‘This dog is going to hunt,’ ” he said. “It really does speak to the potential for this virus to be transmitted.”
He added that there are probably more super spreaders — or shedders — of the Wuhan coronavirus than this one patient.
“If we have one super shedder, that tells us we’re going to have more super shedders,” he said. “If there’s one, there will be more … ” Read more.