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Beware of the Superspreaders

"Typhoid" Mary Mallon

Modern day Typhoid Marys are on the loose! Carrie Arnold describes the dangers for Slate:

If germs hung a recruiting sign for their hosts, it would probably be a version of the World War I poster of Uncle Sam pointing: We want YOU to help us reproduce. All hosts were equally eligible for service, infectious-disease researchers thought. Assuming the recruits weren’t immune due to a prior infection or vaccination, anyone should have roughly the same potential to spread a disease’s pathogens. But then came severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

This pandemic started as just another strange pneumonia from southern China, but in 2003 it turned into a global outbreak that infected 8,098 people and killed 774. Key to the disease’s spread, researchers found, was a small but crucial portion of the population that became known as “superspreaders,” people who transmitted the infection to a much greater than expected number of new hosts.

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