Each individual patient with the so-called Wuhan virus, officially known as Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, is passing the disease on to between two and three other people on average at the present rates of transmission.
That is what two separate scientific analyses of the epidemic released on Saturday have concluded.
Will the Wuhan virus outbreak continue to spread at that rate of transmission?
That depends largely on control measures, say the scientists who conducted these early studies.
But to truly contain the epidemic and turn back the rapid pace of infections, those control measures would have to be successful in preventing transmission with at least 60% of confirmed patients.
At least 42 people are believed to have died from the coronavirus outbreak as of Saturday. Over 1,400 people are infected worldwide, and most of them are in China's Hubei province, where Wuhan city lies.
From Reuters, on Saturday:
"It is unclear at the current time whether this outbreak can be contained within China," said Neil Ferguson, an infectious disease specialist at Imperial College London who co-led one of the studies. Ferguson's team suggest as many as 4,000 people in Wuhan were already infected by Jan. 18 and that on average each case was infecting two or three others.
A second study by researchers at Britain's Lancaster University also calculated the contagion rate at 2.5 new people on average being infected by each person already infected. "Should the epidemic continue unabated in Wuhan, we predict (it) will be substantially larger by Feb. 4," the scientists wrote.
They estimated that the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the outbreak began in December will alone have around 190,000 cases of infection by Feb. 4., and that "infection will be established in other Chinese cities, and importations to other countries will be more frequent."
Read more at Reuters:
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PHOTO: First electron microscopic images of the novel coronavirus in China [CDC.gov, public domain, 1/24/2020]