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Public Health Measures and the Reproduction Number of SARS-CoV-2

Thomas V. Inglesby, MD
Date posted:
May 01, 2020
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), first detected in early December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It has since spread throughout the world.

One measure of viral spread is the R0, the expected number of secondary infectious cases produced by a primary infectious case. This calculation is used to determine the potential for epidemic spread in a susceptible population. The effective reproduction number, Rt, determines the potential for epidemic spread at a specific time t under the control measures in place (Figure 1). To evaluate the effectiveness of public health interventions, the Rt should be quantified in different settings, ideally at regular and frequent intervals (eg, weekly).



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