Today Chinese scientists working with data collected from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) offered another take on the reproductive number of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), or the R nought (R0), and the case-fatality rate (CFR). The study is published on the preprint server medRxiv.

The R0 is another way of saying how infectious a disease is, as it offers an average of how many people a single person can infect with a virus. If the R0 is less than 1, an outbreak dies; if the average is greater than one, it spreads. Highly infectious viruses, such as measles, have R0s between 10 and 20. The SARS outbreak in 2003 had an R0 of around 3.

The scientists, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Automation and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, both in in Beijing, calculated an R0 of 4.08 for the current outbreak, meaning a person infected with 2019-nCoV could infect more than four susceptible people.

This figure is higher than the World Health Organization’s estimate of 1.4 to 2.5 and a recent model that showed an R0 between 3.6 and 4.

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