The fear of superspreaders is one reason health experts are so worried about people who begin to congregate in large groups despite recommendations against such activity

By Ian Horswill

Posted on May 12, 2020

A man has been identified as the superspreader of the novel coronavirus that has led to a major rise in infections in South Korea, one of the countries acclaimed for its actions on reducing the coronavirus.

South Korea went from the second most infected region outside China to having just a handful of cases before the latest outbreak in Seoul’s popular multicultural gay district Itaewon.

The number of coronavirus cases linked to the 29-year-old man who went clubbing has risen to 102, Yonhap News quoted Seoul mayor Park Won-Soon saying on Tuesday.

The man tested positive for coronavirus on May 1-2 after visiting five clubs and bars in Itaewon. The authorities are trying to to track down at least 1,500 people who signed in entry logs at the affected facilities, but many of the clubs’ entry logs turned out to have false information.

Park says the city has now secured a list of 10,905 people who visited Itaewon through data provided by mobile phone companies and has sent text messages urging them to be screened. They also found 494 people through credit card transactions.

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The emergence of the cluster prompted officials to push back the reopening of schools by one week, with students initially set to return to classes in stages starting Wednesday. Seoul has effectively shut down clubs and bars in the city.

The fear of superspreaders is one reason health experts are so worried about people who begin to congregate in large groups despite recommendations against such activity.

The dangerous thing is that anyone can become a superspreader.

As far as the medical experts know, no one is immune from getting COVID-19, and no one is immune from passing it to others, including potentially a lot of others, Dr Raagini Jawa, an infectious-disease physician in Boston, US, told Everyday Health.

The possibility you could turn into a superspreader, giving the disease to dozens, hundreds, or, as those people go on to infect others, even thousands, is one reason it is critical that you follow current guidance for minimising coronavirus infection transmission.

One of the most vexing problems with trying to contain COVID-19 is that people can have the virus multiplying in their body before they feel a single cough or other symptom.

“A person could be ‘viremic’ — meaning the virus is circulating in their body, for days before they even have a symptom, and theoretically they could be shedding the virus during this time,” said Dr Jawa.

“If for your job or social network you are around many people, you may be able to spread it to more people.”

The likelihood of a superspreader is increased when there is a lot of coronavirus infections.

In Russia, for example, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the country will begin easing coronavirus restriction on Tuesday, even though Russia reported a record 11,656 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours. At least 221,344 people have been infected with coronavirus in Russia, with over 2,000 deaths confirmed from COVID-19.

Lebanon is fearful of a new wave of coronavirus cases after the number of infections – 36 – jumped to its highest point in more than a month as the government eased some restrictions on public life. On May 1, Lebanon recorded one coronavirus case, its lowest since April 21, but has now seen two days (May 7 and May 10) of 34 or more recorded infections.

In Senegal, President Macky Sall announced that mosques and churches can reopen and eased other restrictions imposed to contain the disease despite the country recording the largest one-day jump in cases. Senegal has a total of 1,886 confirmed of coronavirus cases and 19 deaths.