What is a ‘Superspreader Event’ and How Does It Spread Coronavirus?

superspreader event

This on-going coronavirus pandemic is teaching many new things which include some new terminologies that were never common before. It is common to be not-knowing them all, as these terms were never used in the past. One such term is a ‘superspreader event’ which is often mentioned in the news especially explaining why the pandemic is not under control yet.

A superspreader event is any public gathering where a number of people are present and a majority of them end up getting COVID-19 positive afterward. Of course, it takes some time for the virus to show up and it is possible for a person to go to more places which contain big gatherings. But when multiple people present at one same location are infected, that one event is declared as a superspreader- causing the virus to spread. So, not all gatherings are superspreading the virus.

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There is no ‘standard’ of how many people should be present to characterize that gathering as a superspreader event. But most of these incidents are reported from bars, churches, weddings, and restaurants, suggesting that the number of people attending these gatherings could vary.

In March, a person who happened to be a choir member ended up getting infected after attending a rehearsal event in the US. This same event was attended by 60 people and nearly 52 of them developed COVID-19 symptoms and two of them lost their lives later.

Similarly, another incident in Hong Kong shocked everyone where four local bars caused 39 people to get coronavirus. These people included the staff members and the musicians which ended up infecting their family members and friends. The contact tracing of this event helped to identify that the same bands performed in these bars so it appears that the musicians infected nearly 100 people.

One study on coronavirus contact tracing by a research team from Hong Kong finds that only 19% of infected people were responsible for making more than 80% new cases of coronavirus, hence causing the pandemic.

The health experts suggest putting a hold on the mass gatherings which may act as a superspreader event later.

Anne Rimoin from the University of California has even suggested tracing the contact of the US President Donald Trump, who has been recently tested positive for COVID-19.

President and the first lady attended the Rose Garden ceremony on September 26th and an indoor event at the White House for the next Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. According to the timing of these two events and the announcement of tested positive, it looks like the president and the first lady were infected in any of these two events.

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The only way to control new coronavirus infection is by contact tracing which has been highlighted by a number of health experts globally. It is also helpful to know which event is or is not a super spreading event and that’s how the chain of coronavirus transmission can be broken.

Many times it is hard to complete the tracing investigations because of incomplete information or no information on the participants and attendees of an event. But in official events like those which take place at the White House, contact tracing is easier. Other events that have a guest list, event coverage by photographers or videographers can also be investigated for contact tracing.

All this information suggests that contact tracing can help to identify the infected people and help them before they infect more people around them. If not millions, at least hundreds of lives could be saved by this simple measure until a vaccine is available.


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