The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has now become pandemic. How has it managed to spread from China to all around the world within 3 to 4 months? Li et al. used multiple sources to infer the proportion of early infections that went undetected and their contribution to virus spread. The researchers combined data from Tencent, one of the world’s largest social media and technology companies, with a networked dynamic metapopulation model and Bayesian inference to analyze early spread within China. They estimate that ∼۸۶% of cases were undocumented before travel restrictions were put in place. Before travel restriction and personal isolation were implemented, the transmission rate of undocumented infections was a little more than half that of the known cases. However, because of their greater numbers, undocumented infections were the source for ∼۸۰% of the documented cases. Immediately after travel restrictions were imposed, ∼۶۵% of cases were documented. These findings help to explain the lightning-fast spread of this virus around the world.
Authors: Ruiyun Li, Sen Pei, Bin Chen, Yimeng Song, Tao Zhang, Wan Yang, Jeffrey Shaman