Early Transmission Dynamics in Wuhan, China, of Novel Coronavirus–Infected Pneumonia

Item Type:

Publication

Citation

Li, Qun, Xuhua Guan, Peng Wu, Xiaoye Wang, Lei Zhou, Yeqing Tong, Ruiqi Ren, Kathy S. M. Leung, Eric H. Y. Lau, Jessica Y. Wong, Xuesen Xing, Nijuan Xiang, Yang Wu, Chao Li, Qi Chen, Dan Li, Tian Liu, Jing Zhao, Man Liu, Wenxiao Tu, Chuding Chen, Lianmei Jin, Rui Yang, Qi Wang, Suhua Zhou, Rui Wang, Hui Liu, Yinbo Luo, Yuan Liu, Ge Shao, Huan Li, Zhongfa Tao, Yang Yang, Zhiqiang Deng, Boxi Liu, Zhitao Ma, Yanping Zhang, Guoqing Shi, Tommy T. Y. Lam, Joseph T. Wu, George F. Gao, Benjamin J. Cowling, Bo Yang, Gabriel M. Leung, and Zijian Feng. 2020. "Early Transmission Dynamics in Wuhan, China, of Novel Coronavirus–Infected Pneumonia." New England Journal of Medicine 382 (13):1199-207.

Abstract

Background

The initial cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)–infected pneumonia (NCIP) occurred in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019 and January 2020. We analyzed data on the first 425 confirmed cases in Wuhan to determine the epidemiologic characteristics of NCIP.

Methods

We collected information on demographic characteristics, exposure history, and illness timelines of laboratory-confirmed cases of NCIP that had been reported by January 22, 2020. We described characteristics of the cases and estimated the key epidemiologic time-delay distributions. In the early period of exponential growth, we estimated the epidemic doubling time and the basic reproductive number.

Results

Among the first 425 patients with confirmed NCIP, the median age was 59 years and 56% were male. The majority of cases (55%) with onset before January 1, 2020, were linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, as compared with 8.6% of the subsequent cases. The mean incubation period was 5.2 days (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.1 to 7.0), with the 95th percentile of the distribution at 12.5 days. In its early stages, the epidemic doubled in size every 7.4 days. With a mean serial interval of 7.5 days (95% CI, 5.3 to 19), the basic reproductive number was estimated to be 2.2 (95% CI, 1.4 to 3.9).

Conclusions

On the basis of this information, there is evidence that human-to-human transmission has occurred among close contacts since the middle of December 2019. Considerable efforts to reduce transmission will be required to control outbreaks if similar dynamics apply elsewhere. Measures to prevent or reduce transmission should be implemented in populations at risk. (Funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China and others.)

Accessibility

Free online on NEJM