Disease “superspreaders” account for nearly two-thirds of Ebola cases

Photo courtesy of CDC Global.

In the catastrophic 2014-15 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, about three percent of the people infected were “super spreaders” ultimately responsible for infecting 61 percent of all cases, according to a new study by population biologist Benjamin Dalziel and an international team of researchers.

Dalziel is an assistant professor with joint appointments in the Departments of Integrative Biology and Mathematics in the College of Science.

The study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and covered in The Washington Post. The research was led by Princeton University, in collaboration with scientists from OSU, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,  International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Imperial College London, and the National Institutes of Health.

They are called superspreaders, the minority of people who are responsible for infecting many others during epidemics of infectious diseases. Perhaps the most famous superspreader was Typhoid Mary, presumed to have infected 51 people, three of whom died, between 1900 and 1907…If superspreading had been completely controlled, almost two-thirds of the infections might have been prevented, according to scientists.

“It’s similar to looking at a blood spatter pattern and figuring out where the shooter was standing,” said Dalziel.

Read more in The Washington Post article.


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