Preprint Article Version 2 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The Silent Partners

Version 1 : Received: 20 July 2020 / Approved: 21 July 2020 / Online: 21 July 2020 (10:48:12 CEST)
Version 2 : Received: 3 August 2020 / Approved: 4 August 2020 / Online: 4 August 2020 (04:53:24 CEST)

How to cite: Almogy, G. The Silent Partners. Preprints 2020, 2020070475. Almogy, G. The Silent Partners. Preprints 2020, 2020070475.


Despite great advances in understanding the dynamics of viral epidemics, the emergence of rapidly spreading, highly pathogenic viruses remains a realistic and catastrophic possibility, which current health systems may not be able to fully contain. An intriguing feature in many recent zoonotic viral outbreaks is the presence of superspreaders, which are infected individuals that cause dramatically more new cases than the average. Here I study the effect of superspreaders on the early dynamics of emerging viruses that have not gained the capacity for efficient human-to-human transmission, i.e viruses with R0 < 1. I show that superspreaders have a higher chance of rapid extinction, but under crowded conditions can lead to outbreaks, causing far more cases than regular viruses. I suggest that outbreaks of highly pathogenic superspreaders are more likely when they coincide in time and space with an unrelated outbreak leading to increased hospital admission rates. These superspreader outbreaks may be difficult to detect, especially in the context of a different epidemic in progress, and can significantly affect mortality patterns observed in affected areas.


Mathematical model; SARS; COVID-19; Superspreaders; Viral outbreaks; H7N9; Influenza; zoonotic


Biology and Life Sciences, Virology

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 4 August 2020
Commenter: gal almogy
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: Methods section was revised to more accurately describe the technique used. I added a figure outlining some testable predictions that follow from this work (figure 6). I also made minor changes to the text in various places + corrected one reference
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