Topics: Biology, COVID-19, Research
Continued: It triggered a big outbreak. At least 97 people who attended the conference, or lived in a household with someone who did, tested positive.
The Biogen meeting had become a superspreading event. Eventually, the virus spread from the meeting across Massachusetts and to other states. A recent study estimates it led to tens of thousands of cases in the Boston area alone.
COVID-19 superspreading events have been reported around the world. They happen in all sorts of places: bars and barbecues, gyms and factories, schools and churches, and on ships.
And even at the White House.
But why do these disease clusters occur—and why are they so important?
The reproduction rate
COVID-19 and many other diseases transmit from person to person. The reproduction rate, R, determines how fast a disease can spread.
R denotes the number of people infected, on average, by a single infected person. If R is 2, the number of cases doubles in every generation: from one infected person, to two, to four, to eight, and so on.
The Science of Superspreading, Martin Enserink, Kai Kupferschmidt, and Nirja Desai, Science Magazine