The Wuhan coronavirus that has killed at least 17 people and infected more than 600 spreads more easily from person to person than previously thought, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) official.
“We are now seeing second and third generation spread,” said Dr. David Heymann, the chairperson of a WHO committee that is gathering data on the virus.
Third generation means that someone who became infected after handling animals at the market in Wuhan, China, spreads the virus to someone else, who then spreads it to a third person.
The virus initially appeared to spread only by very close contact that would typically occur within a family, such as hugging, kissing, or sharing eating utensils, Heymann said.
Now, he says evidence is accruing that shows more distant contact could spread the virus, such as if a sick person were to sneeze or cough near someone else’s face.
He said there is no evidence at this point that the virus is airborne and could be spread across a room, as happens with the flu or measles.