A BRITISH businessman has been dubbed a ‘superspreader’ of the coronavirus after unknowingly infecting 11 people.
Steve Walsh, 53, has now fully recovered after being diagnosed in Brighton in the UK on February 6.
The scout leader had picked up the infection while in Singapore at a business conference in the middle of January.
He was representing gas company Servomex, where he works as a senior executive.
The event was being held at the exclusive Grand Hyatt hotel, which sees rooms go for more than €1,000 per night, and welcomed vendors from across China and Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
At least four others were infected at that conference.
Walsh, unaware he was carrying the virus, then travelled to the French Alps for a skiing holiday on the last weekend of January.
He stayed at the Les Contamines-Montjoie resort, where he met and unknowingly passed on the virus to the British expat who lives in Marratxi, Mallorca.
Walsh unknowingly infected five people who are now in the UK, five who are in France and the British man who is in Mallorca.
Investigations being carried out include tracking down all passengers on the Geneva-London and Geneva-Barcelona-Palma flights.
In a statement from St Thomas’ hospital in London, where he is in quarantine, Walsh said: “I would like to thank the NHS for their help and care – whilst I have fully recovered, my thoughts are with others who have contracted coronavirus.
“As soon as I knew I had been exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus I contacted my GP, NHS 111 and Public Health England.
“I was advised to attend an isolated room at hospital, despite showing no symptoms, and subsequently self-isolated at home as instructed.
“When the diagnosis was confirmed I was sent to an isolation unit in hospital, where I remain, and, as a precaution, my family was also asked to isolate themselves.
“I also thank friends, family and colleagues for their support during recent weeks and I ask the media to respect our privacy.”
What is a superspreader?
A superspreader is someone who is much more capable of infecting others with a virus or disease than the average person.
Studies have shown that outbreaks in the past have tended to follow something called the 20:80 rule, which means that around 20% of infected people contribute to around 80% of the disease’s spread.
Scientists believe tracking down superspreaders can be crucial to keeping an outbreak under control and prevent it from becoming a pandemic.
It is not yet known why people are more adept at spreading a disease, but theories suggest some patients may ‘shed’ more of the virus into the atmosphere when they sneeze or cough or sweat, because of how their immune system works.
Patterns of behaviour may also lead to someone being dubbed a superspreader.
Much like Walsh, someone who travels around the world conducting business and meeting lots of people could rapidly spread a virus.