This Week Could Prove Critical

Will the extraordinary and controversial efforts to contain the coronavirus work?

This week could prove critical, University of Hong Kong epidemiologist Ben Cowling tells TIME: “What we’re worried about is that we don’t see any reduction in the steady increase,” Cowling says.

One of the key uncertainties is the extent of asymptomatic transmission—called into question again with news that a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last Thursday was flawed, Science reports.

A Shanghai businesswoman who passed the virus to 4 people while visiting Germany was not truly asymptomatic, it turns out. The researchers relied on secondhand reports that she appeared fine. The patient later said she had symptoms and took paracetamol.

That doesn’t mean transmission from asymptomatic people isn’t occurring; other reports from China back the theory. But it's an important speed bump for researchers racing to pin down details on 2019-nCoV.

As  Marc Lipsitch, a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health epidemiologist, says, “I think peer review is lighter in the middle of an epidemic than it is at normal speed, and also the quality of the data going into the papers is necessarily more uncertain.”

The Numbers (Courtesy of the AP):

  • 26,000 global cases (20,438 in mainland China)

  • 427 dead; Hong Kong records its first death

  • 25 countries on 4 continents reporting cases
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