Geneva - With the first reports of human-to-human transmission outside of China, the chances of stopping the epidemic in the foreseeable future are decreasing. The basic reproduction number R0 is decisive for the further course. That is the average number of people infected by an infected person.
A team led by Neil Ferguson from the WHO Collaborating Center for Infectious Disease Modeling on January 25th estimated the R0 value to be 2.6, with an uncertainty range of 1.5 to 3.5. According to Ferguson, more than 60% of the possible transmissions would have to be prevented in order to contain the infection.
The number that infecting single patient could be very variable according to the expectations of SARS and MERS. Ferguson suspects that there are also so-called super spreaders in the 2019-nCoV, which infect large number of people while other people do not transmit the virus.
Whether the epidemic can be contained depends on whether it is possible to identify and isolate the infected in good time. But the behavior of the population also plays role.
If people avoid contact with sick people or wash their hands more often, this can slow down the spread of the epidemic. In this case the R0 value decreases. If the R0 value is below 1, an epidemic subsides, which was the case with SARS after few months.