Coronavirus: What is a 'super spreader' and how many people has one British man infected?

·2-min read
This picture taken on February 10, 2020, shows a school closed in Les Contamines-Montjoie, near Mont Blanc in the French Alps, where five British nationals including a child have tested positive for the new coronavirus in France. - The new "cluster" is centred on a Briton who had returned from Singapore and stayed in Contamines-Montjoie at the same ski chalet, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said on February 8, 2020. France has now detected a total of 11 cases of the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Alex MARTIN / AFP) (Photo by ALEX MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images)
A school closed in Les Contamines-Montjoie, near Mont Blanc in the French Alps, where five British nationals including a child tested positive for the coronavirus (Getty)

A British businessman who contracted the coronavirus in Singapore is feared to be a “super spreader” with a higher ability to infect other people, and appears to be linked to 11 other cases.

After a conference in Singapore, the man, who is in his 50s, 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.

The man, who is now being treated at St Thomas' Hospital in London, has been linked to six other cases – five of which were announced on Monday.

RETRANSMITTING PIXELATING DOOR LABEL A man in protective clothing cleaning the County Oak Medical Centre GP practice in Brighton which has been temporarily closed "because of an urgent operational health and safety reason", following reports a member of staff there was one of those infected with coronavirus. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man in protective clothing cleans the County Oak Medical Centre GP practice in Brighton after a member of staff contracted coronavirus (Getty)

What is a ‘super spreader’?

Medical professionals are as of yet unsure what makes a person a super spreader, which means they have a higher ability to infect other people with a virus they contracted.

It has been suggested some people may "shed" more of the virus into the environment by coughing and sneezing.

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Some speculate that the immune system of the person might be so good that the person themselves doesn’t feel symptoms so carries on transmitting the disease to others.

In the early 1990s, an Irish woman nicknamed “Typhoid Mary” infected an estimated 51 people in the US with typhoid but had no symptoms herself.

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Someone who travels a lot and has contact with many people – as was the case with the British businessman – could spread the virus to multiple people.

It is possible that they got a higher dose of the virus or were infected with more than one pathogen.

Specialists say identifying these individuals is vital in keeping the spread of virus under control.