What is a super-spreader?

A picture of a man sneezing Credit: Peter Jordan/PA

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.

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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).

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

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.