Coronavirus transmission: How is coronavirus transmitted? What are super-spreaders?

Three more infections have been confirmed in the UK on Friday, with Wales confirming its first case, bringing the UK total to 19. In the Chinese epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, another 327 cases were confirmed on Friday, with more than 83,000 cases now reported worldwide.

How is the coronavirus transmitted?

The coronavirus – officially called COVID-19 – is new, and not an awful lot is known about how it’s spread, according to the NHS.

However, “similar viruses are spread in cough droplets”, said the NHS.

Popular thinking is that people catch the virus from close contact with people who are infected.


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People coughing or sneezing up droplets filled with coronavirus spread the infection from person to person, it is thought.

You can also catch the virus from an infected surface – for example, if someone coughs on their hand, doesn’t wash it, touches a door handle and you then touch that same handle and touch your face.

However, the NHS said: “It’s very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food.

“Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.”

What are super-spreaders?

There is something when it comes to the transmission of infections diseases called the ‘20/80 rule’.

This rule refers to a small core group of people – about one in five – who transit an infection far more than the majority of people do.

There is no definitive answer as to how or why some people become super-spreaders, but there are a few theories.

One theory is the immune system of a super-spreader might not be good at suppressing the virus.


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While another theory suggests it might be so good that they do not feel symptoms themselves so carry on transmitting it to others.

However, it is likely to be caused by multiple factors, possibly including getting a higher dose of the virus in the first place or being infected with more than one pathogen.

There isn’t any way to know who will be a super-spreader and who won’t, but it’s a common theme in infections diseases, dating as far back as the early 1900s.

The UK has seen a super-spreader of coronavirus, when a British man in his 50s who contracted the coronavirus infection at a conference in Singapore.

He then travelled to France where he stayed with his family in a ski chalet in the Alpine resort of Les Contamines-Montjoie.

Five people who were in the chalet, including a boy of nine, have tested positive for coronavirus since the man came back to the UK on an easyJet flight and was diagnosed in Brighton.

Another Briton who was on holiday in the chalet flew back to his home in Mallorca and was admitted to hospital in Palma.

The chief medical officer said four more people had tested positive in England – all of whom were also on the skiing holiday in France.

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