WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- Infectious disease researchers at The University of Texas at Austin studying the novel coronavirus were able to identify how quickly the virus can spread, a factor that may help public health officials in their efforts at containment.
Ateam of scientists from the United States, France, China and Hong Kong were able to calculate what’s called the serial interval of the virus. To measure serial interval, scientists look at the time it takes for symptoms to appear in two people with the virus: the person who infects another, and the infected second person.
Researchers found that the average serial interval for the novel coronavirus in China was approximately four days. This also is among the first studies to estimate the rate of asymptomatic transmission.
The speed of an epidemic depends on two things -- how many people each case infects and how long it takes for infection between people to spread. The first quantity is called the reproduction number; the second is the serial interval. The short serial interval of COVID-19 means emerging outbreaks will grow quickly and could be difficult to stop, the researchers said.
They found that time between cases in a chain of transmission is less than a week and that more than 10% of patients are infected by somebody who has the virus but does not yet have symptoms.
Previously, researchers had some uncertainty about asymptomatic transmission with the coronavirus. This new evidence could provide guidance to public health officials on how to contain the spread of the disease.