Surge in untraceable clusters of coronavirus around the world sparks dire warnings from disease experts

Saturday, February 22, 2020
By Paul Martin

Clusters in South Korea, Singapore and Iran leading to jump in cases
Trouble finding each source may signal disease has begun spreading too widely
Means tried-and-tested public health steps to stamp it out may not be effective

22 February 2020

Coronavirus experts are more worried that they are unable to trace where clusters of the bug are breaking out than they are about the rising numbers of infections.

In South Korea, Singapore and Iran, clusters of infections are leading to a jump in cases of the new viral illness outside China.

World Health Organization officials said China’s crackdown on parts of the country bought time for the rest of the world to prepare for the new virus.

But as hot spots emerge around the globe, trouble finding each source – the first patient who sparks every new cluster – might signal the disease has begun spreading too widely for tried-and-tested public health steps to stamp it out.

The virus has so far infected more than 77,000 people across the world, with more than 2,250 killed by it.

‘A number of spot fires, occurring around the world is a sign that things are ticking along, and what we are going to have here is probably a pandemic,’ said Ian Mackay, who studies viruses at Australia’s University of Queensland.

That worst-case isn’t here yet, the WHO insists.

It isn’t convinced that countries outside China need more draconian measures, but it pointed to spikes in cases in Iran and South Korea to warn that time may be running out to contain the virus.

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