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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Columbia: Journal Science Holds Press Conference Study on Stealth Transmission’ Fuels Fast Spread of Coronavirus Outbreak

Undetected cases, many of which were likely not severely symptomatic, were largely responsible for the rapid spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, according to new research by Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. The findings based on a computer model of the outbreak are published online in the journal Science. A press conference was held at noon on March 16th.

Findings:

“The explosion of COVID-19 cases in China was largely driven by individuals with mild, limited, or no symptoms who went undetected,” says co-author Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School. “Depending on their contagiousness and numbers, undetected cases can expose a far greater portion of the population to virus than would otherwise occur. We find for COVID-19 in China these undetected infected individuals are numerous and contagious. These stealth transmissions will continue to present a major challenge to the containment of this outbreak going forward.”

The researchers used a computer model that draws on observations of reported infection and spread within China in conjunction with mobility data from January 10-23 and January 24-February 8. They caution that major changes to patient documentation practices or rapid developments on travel restrictions and control measures, may make predictions difficult.

Read more in Science.