Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Superspreaders: who and why

25 November 2020


Most articles on superspreaders are about the what and where questions. The why and who questions are rarely addressed. My recent blog on the “Mission, goals, strategy, tactics and operations of viruses” gives an indirect answer to this why question. From the perspective of a virus, superspreaders are essential for infecting as many people as quickly as possible

A recent “study, based on a giant contact tracing effort involving more than 3 million people in India, shows most Covid-19 patients never infected anyone else. The researchers found that 70% of infected people did not infect any of their contacts, while 8% of patients accounted for 60% of observed new infections” (CNN, 2020 study). Notebold markings in quote by LO.

From the perspective of a virus, superspreaders are people that have many social contacts. The study indeed shows that “[t]he young to middle adult age group is the one that is coming into contact with people. They are the people most likely to be outside the household. They are the ones taking the disease from one place to the other” (CNN). Note: bold markings in quote by LO.

In my country, some 3.2 million out of 17.4 million people – or 18.5% – are between 20-45 years (CBS). Hence, 43% of this Dutch age group would represent the 8% superspreaders. In India, the demographics are very different: at least 50% is between 20-45 years (Wiki). Hence, a small part (<17%) of Indian people between 20-45 years would belong to the 8% superspreaders.

From the perspective of a virus, it makes perfect sense using the age group of 20-45 years as these humans should be at peak strength. Using other age groups would only raise host mortality, which is not in the interest of a virus. A virus wants to keep its host alive, in order to multiply and spread. Hence, viruses reduce in strength once host mortality becomes too high. 

The interests of viruses (ie, spreading) and humans (ie, containment, prevention) are opposite. The stronger prevention (eg, lockdowns), the longer virus spreading will last. A wildfire scenario would normally be the best solution. However, national healthcare capacity is usually funded by governments and thus based on (historical) average use and never on peak use.

Given the above, it’s no surprise that about 40% of all corona casualties happened at nursing and retirement homes, following the interactions between senior citizens and young to middle age adult staff, who were forced to do their job without an adequate PPE gear supply (my blog).

See Me, Feel Me (1969) by The Who

artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.


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