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A call COVID-19 “superspreader” who traveled the northeast China It has been linked to 102 confirmed infections, according to Chinese officials.

The individual, who worked as a vendor promoting health products for the elderly, had traveled from his home province of Heilongjiang to neighboring Jilin province, bringing the virus with him.

Authorities claim that he unknowingly spread the virus among elderly residents for several days before health officials tracked him down as a close contact for a confirmed case.

A nurse wearing a mask to help slow the spread of the coronavirus walks alongside people queuing for a coronavirus test at a Beijing hospital. (AP Photo / Andy Wong) (AP)

“The phenomenon of superpropagation occurred in our province mainly because when the superpropagator was discovered, it was still in the initial phase of its infection and had a relatively strong ability to eliminate the virus,” said Zhao Qinglong, disease control and prevention official. from Jilin province. center, he told the state news agency Xinhua.

A super-spread event occurs when an individual infects a large number of people, due to a higher viral load in their droplets or other factors such as behavior and time.

The apparent over-spreading event in Jilin occurred as China is battling its worst coronavirus outbreak in months, which has seen hundreds of reported cases and tens of millions of people put under lockdown in its northern provinces.

It also demonstrated the scope and speed of contact tracing and detection by Chinese health authorities, which have played a crucial role in the domestication of local outbreaks.

Detailed itinerary and privacy concerns

The vendor was diagnosed as a confirmed case of COVID-19 on Sunday, after being initially identified as an asymptomatic carrier last Tuesday, according to the Jilin provincial health commission. China records asymptomatic infections separately from its official case count.

The commission published a detailed itinerary of the seller’s trips in the week before he tested positive for the virus, including four train trips (with their seat numbers listed), three bus trips and one subway trip, going and coming between Heilongjiang and Jilin.

Over four days, the man conducted four “health seminars” or marketing sessions at community health clubs aimed at elderly residents in the cities of Gongzhuling and Tonghua in Jilin.

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In all, the individual infected 79 people who attended the seminars, who later infected 23 of his close contacts, Zhang Yan, deputy director of the commission, said at a press conference on Sunday. The average age of those infected is 63, and the oldest is 87, Zhang said.

All infected people were located as close contacts of the man and quarantined, before testing positive during medical observation, Zhang said.

Although it is an effective contact tracing tool, publicity of the detailed travel history of coronavirus patients has also raised privacy concerns in China.

Last month, a young woman from the southwestern city of Chengdu was publicly embarrassed on social media for her “decadent” lifestyle, as users attacked her for going to a bar and various nightclubs in the two weeks leading up to the positive virus test.

Community health clubs under scrutiny

Jilin’s seemingly widely publicized event has put community health clubs under increased scrutiny from health experts and authorities.

One of the health clubs in Tonghua City is located in a room on the ground floor of a former residential building, where 30 to 40 people attended the man’s seminar, and few wore masks, Xinhua reported.

“The infected people were gathered in an enclosed space for a long time,” Zhao, the Jilin health official told Xinhua. “Most of them are middle-aged and elderly people with underlying health problems and weak immunity, and therefore extremely susceptible to infections.”

So-called “health clubs” serving the elderly are increasingly common among residential communities in China, where marketing sessions, often referred to as “health conferences,” are held regularly to promote health products. such as supplements and physiotherapy equipment.

Unlike movie theaters, restaurants, karaoke rooms and other commercial venues, these clubs are often hidden in residential buildings and are difficult for authorities to regulate, according to Xinhua.

The Jilin authorities are investigating whether the two health clubs where the man ran had violated any regulations, a provincial market supervision official said at the press conference.

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