Lion of the Blogosphere

How does the Wuhan coronavirus spread?

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or a virologist or any other occupation that would give me job-related expertise.

The new coronavirus spreads very much like the flu does. There can be the impression that it’s some sort of super contagion but there’s no evidence of that. It’s not like someone with the virus gets on a plane, and then when the plane lands everyone on the plane has the virus. In fact, I don’t know of any confirmed cases of transmission that happened on a plane flight (although I could be wrong).

I think there are five reasons why this virus has a higher R0 than seasonal flu:

1. An infected person can be contagious for a very long time. It’s believed that the virus can be contagious before even the appearance of symptoms, and in the case of severe infections, it can be three weeks between first symptoms and release from a hospital or death. That’s a long time for the virus to infect people, especially medical workers who aren’t taking precautions because they don’t know that their patient has the virus because the patient was never tested.

2. Some (many?) people who get the virus are asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic but are still contagious. They have no reason to think they have a serious infectious illness and need to stay home, nor do the people who come in contact with them have reason to avoid them. Patient 1 in northern Italy caught the virus from patient 0 who never had any symptoms except for mild cold symptoms for only one day. [UPDATE: Italian health officials have no idea where patient 1 caught it from. They tested who they thought was patient 0 for antibodies to the virus and found none.]

3. Foodborne and fecal transmission. I think that, compared to seasonal flu, this virus is more easily caught by eating food prepared by someone who has the virus. I suspect that’s how it spread through the cruise ship, and NOT through the air circulation. There is a scientific paper supporting the idea of fecal to oral transmission. This also suggests a possible transmission vector from sitting on a public toilet and flushing it, which could spray virus up your anus or into the air.

4. Many people have some level of immunity to seasonal flus because they’ve had a similar flu in the past or had a flu vaccine, but no one has any immunity to the new coronavirus.

5. Super-spreaders, people who shed more virus than most people, seem to be responsible for a disproportionate number of transmissions. I don’t know if this also happens with influenza, but perhaps the super-spreader phenomenon is more pronounced with coronaviruses. The super-spreader phenomenon was observed with previous coronaviruses (MERS and SARS).

For the reasons above, people who believe the virus will magically disappear when the weather gets warm are just deluding themselves. The contagiousness could go down a bit during warmer weather, but the virus will still be contagious enough to continue to spread unless we impose society-wide efforts to increase social distancing.

As for practical advice, the best way to avoid catching this is the same as the best way to avoid catching any other type of upper respiratory infection. Keep your distance (3 feet minimum, ideally 6 feet) from people who are infected. And because you don’t know who’s infected, keep your distance from everyone. Plus good hand hygiene.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 22, 2020 at EST pm

21 Responses

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  1. “There is a scientific paper supporting the idea of fecal to oral transmission.”

    Damn. That’s nasty.

    destructure

    February 22, 2020 at EST pm

    • It’s how the Norwalk virus spreads. Which is a much more contagious virus while people have it, but it’s a virus that comes and goes very quickly, and when you have it you’re in no shape to go to public gatherings and infect other people.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 22, 2020 at EST pm

      • Polio was spread that way too.

        Tom

        February 22, 2020 at EST pm

  2. Avoid giving rim jobs.

    Peter

    ironrailsironweights

    February 22, 2020 at EST pm

    • Messing around with GNPs is probably not ideal either.

      IHTG

      February 22, 2020 at EST pm

      • Better than messing around with the Hideous Pedophilic Bald Eagle, virus or not.

        Peter

        ironrailsironweights

        February 22, 2020 at EST pm

  3. “This also suggests a possible transmission vector from sitting on a public toilet and flushing it, which could spray virus up your anus”

    If I am correct that all your Presidential candidates will soon be dead except Buttigieg, maybe we can rename the virus in his honour–the Bootyphage!

    Seriously though, doesn’t everyone flush after they’ve stood up? Especially at a public toilet? I understood that the transmission vector with toilets was that the aerosol droplets containing the virus would be forced around the public toilet bathroom area and breathed in.

    prolier than thou

    February 22, 2020 at EST pm

      • Couple problems with that.

        If you close the lid every time you flush, doesn’t that mean the next time you open the lid everything flies off anyway? Also when you sit down on the toilet, the stuff on the lid could spread onto your back.

        How do you close the lid every time you flush when you’re taking a dump? Typically, you have to flush a few times while you take a dump. If you wait to flush until after you’ve wiped and everything, you risk clogging the toilet. So to close the lid every time you flush while taking a dump, you’d have to get up from the toilet unwiped, which can get even messier.

        Tom

        February 22, 2020 at EST pm

  4. With increasing population size and density, it is inevitable that we eventually run into serious pandemics again. People feel very safe or else we would be taking this more seriously.

    jjbees

    February 22, 2020 at EST pm

  5. I was with you until “R0.” This is a writerly device that offends the reader, implying he’s a dumb peasant because he doesn’t know an obscure acronym or term. Seriously, how many three-digit-IQ real-college grads know what R0 means? If you don’t spell it out or explain it, you either like turning off sympathetic readers or think that everyone knows everything, just like you!

    Cranky Scold

    February 22, 2020 at EST pm

    • I assumed that by now you would know it because I’ve been writing about the virus for more than two weeks, and if you don’t you should Google it: https://www.google.com/search?q=r0

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 22, 2020 at EST pm

      • As if we actually read your posts! I’m here for the reader comments, bruh.

        destructure

        February 22, 2020 at EST pm

      • I’m not sure I’d agree that the reader posts are preferable to Lion’s commentary, but I have to agree with Destructure that they are a big reason for frequenting this blog. I’d say they’re at least equally interesting as Lion’s writing. I’ve learned so much from these posts. LOTB is a very special place. I use it as a vehicle for self-improvement. And as JS/OK, who’s this…. would say, “being a prole from Brooklyn, Maryk needs all the self-improvement she’s capable of.” But I have to say that this blog changes you. Now when I see that someone I know has done well financially (better than I expected them to do,) I think “how the heck did they do so well financially?” Then a little voice inside me whispers “Value Transference. What else?”

        Maryk (the g-loaded guidette)

        February 22, 2020 at EST pm

      • I was just yanking his chain. Of course I read his posts. Sometimes. 🙂

        destructure

        February 22, 2020 at EST pm

    • Now Cranky, don’t y’all be a gamma who never discovered that theah GOOGLE, y’heah?

      Robert the Libertarian

      February 23, 2020 at EST am

  6. medical workers who aren’t taking precautions because they don’t know that their patient has the virus because the patient was never tested.

    Not gonna lie, as an emergency room physician, I think about this a fair amount these days. (I’m especially terrible at washing my hands too.) Good thing I live in a tiny rural burg with no Asians. I’ll let you guys know if I catch it!

    S.J., Esquire

    February 22, 2020 at EST pm

    • How do people put up with the banality of the sticks n stones? Status signalling snobs ensure they have a city apartment just in case their nature getaways lose their allure and it’s time to go back to the city. It also separates them from other urban snobs who are ignoramuses outside their confines.

      Ok, what, who's this again?

      February 22, 2020 at EST pm

  7. Does this mean that those of us in NYC should avoid crowded public places? I was supposed to go to NJ next month for a family visit. But now I’m not so sure I want to be at Penn Station until this whole Corovid-19 thing is over.

    Maryk (the g-loaded guidette)

    February 22, 2020 at EST pm


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