How Contagious Is The Coronavirus?

This is the latest in our ongoing coverage of the fast-developing coronavirus outbreak originating in Wuhan, China. Our goal is to provide timely and science-based clarity on the situation for those overwhelmed by the many confusing & conflicting reports swirling in the media. If this is the first article of ours you're reading on the subject, we recommend also reviewing our primer on the coronavirus.
There’s currently a bit of a kerfuffle on Twitter. It's over an R0 study on '2019-ncov', which is the official designation for the Wuhan coronavirus (as a reminder, R0 is a measure of how contagious a virus is).

The study is creating a stir because it initially reported an R0 of 3.8, but then was swiftly downgraded to 2.5.

First, it’s important to know that an R0 of 2.5 is still very bad. That’s at the top end of previously reported ranges that were in my video alert from yesterday.

This specific Tweet garnered a lot of attention because a Harvard trained epidemiologist used some very inflammatory language:

So who is Dr Ting?

He’s a Harvard trained epidemiologist:

Dr. Ting was reacting to a new study that estimated the coronavirus’ R0 using available data. Here’s the Twitter thread he posted:

Yikes! Pretty alarming.

Before we go on, I need to say that this study cited immediately came out with a retraction/adjustment and has since “downgraded” the R0 to 2.5.

I use quotation marks because whether the number is 2.5 or 3.8, it’s still a concerningly bad number.

Immediately and predictably, an army of people slamming Dr. Ting for being “alarmist” and unhelpful quickly emerged. These are the sorts of gatekeepers who feel it’s their duty, as enlightened souls, to help prevent less intelligent people from overreacting. Or something.

Notably among them was Ferris Jabr, who really took Dr Ting to task:

And who is Ferris?

I have no idea what Jabr’s qualifications are beyond that short bio. I’m guessing a ‘science writer’ has at least some science background??

Okay, with that as context, let’s parse through this. To begin, I completely disagree with the notion that making elevated claims during a pandemic is “unhelpful.”

Why? Because what’s helpful during a pandemic? I would suggest an overabundance of caution and swift reaction by authorities and the general public.

I already think that letting people travel while simply scanning them upon arrival for a fever is criminally negligent. I would vastly prefer a much more reactionary response.

[optin-monster-shortcode id=“mnldlgnrbdryk45m4edk”]

People like Jabr fit comfortably within the Overton Window where it’s always polite to downplay risks and act as if the State has things firmly under control. You get invited to a lot more parties if this is your stance.

So, I take the opposite view of Jabr on this. I think overreacting is appropriate when the facts are still fluid and nobody knows truly what’s going on. I happen to think it is Jabr’s stance that is unhelpful and probably harmful. If “panicking” means reacting swiftly on incomplete data, then by all means ‘panic’ when a pandemic comes along. That’s just my view.

Now let’s turn to the study itself. The authors turned around and changed the study’s conclusions very quickly. I’m absolutely not going to fault them for that. We’re still in the very early stages of all this, and everything’s subject to change in an environment like this.

I fully applaud and respect people for changing their opinions and conclusions as more data comes in. That’s the same approach we take here at Peak Prosperity.

Here’s the latest from the study authors:

Comment: having such tight 95% confidence intervals after just downgrading your conclusion by -34% seems a bit precise.

The point stands, though, that they’re are still estimating an R0 of 2.5(!)

That’s NOT a favorable number.

This second, lower R0 estimate of 2.5 is still nearly impossible to contain and a major pandemic risk. We can expect that number to change, possibly radically, as more and better data comes in.

However, I just read the study and I’m pretty certain that the 2.5 number may be too low. Here’s why:

I’ve highlighted the most critical line from the entire study. The entire epidemiological model is built upon a number of assumptions – but the largest of them all is the use of “reported case information” as the primary input.

What are the chances that the Chinese government is reporting the full and accurate case information?


Either for political motives to downplay the severity (which every government would do, but China maybe more than most) or because of faulty case gathering (the PCR labs are swamped, and not every person got swabbed and sent off for testing), the “reported case information” is certain to be minimized vs reality.

In other words, the R0 of 2.5 is a minimum value, not a defined value (which is why I take exception to the confidence interval being so tight…that’s a measure of how confident they are if their data inputs are correct, not a measure of actual confidence that they are right).

So the true confidence interval should be placed around the question “how confident are we that the reported case information is correct?” There my instinct would be to have big, fat error bars mostly to the upside, meaning more cases than reported is the actual reality.


Whether it’s 3.8 or 2.5 or 6.7, the R0 for 2019-ncov is sufficient to cause a pandemic. It spreads easily. My current opinion, which I reserve the right to change when better data comes in, is that the current R0 estimate of 2.5 is too low because of its reliance on officially reported case data.

My advice to you is to begin practicing good hygiene right now. Your best defense against this virus is to not catch it in the first place.

So even in the safety of your own home begin these steps:

  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Don’t rub your eyes, don’t pick your nose, don’t wipe off your lips.
  • Every single time you touch a “nuclear surface,” a doorknob, an oven handle, a railing, a chair armrest, immediately go and wash your hands.
  • Practice wearing an N95 mask or its equivalent or better.
By doing these things you will be practicing habits that are useful during any flu season (which is still underway sadly). It takes time to break a lifetime of bad habits of transmitting contaminants to your mucus membranes. So, start them at home and you’ll be better equipped when in public.

When in public, be aware. If someone around you is sneezing or coughing, get away from them. Everybody in public, especially those infected should be wearing a properly fitted face mask. If or when the pandemic arrives where you live, eye protection is needed too. [read here of Chinese MD who traced his own illness to having exposed eyes]

This is all changing very quickly, and having proper information is essential.

Finally, here’s some great advice from Peak Prosperity member Sand-puppy (who has many years of experience in emergency rooms):


Home treatment of febrile Influenza Like Illnesses/Respiratory Infection

[This is a very educated group and most are well versed in this.]

During outbreaks of viral illness, the ED will be a mad house. Stay away if possible. Recommend strong attempts at self-treatment at home. Stay out of the hospital unless truly needed.

  • Ibuprofen 800 mg(or naproxen) for fever, body aches, headache, chest wall soreness. This is a miraculous drug for the misery of ILI. It also helps to sort out the miserable from the seriously sick (see below).
  • If not vomiting repeatedly, you can drink water. “Drink until you pee.” Lots.
  • Electrolytes in water if diarrhea is a part of fluid losses.
  • If incessant coughing, Nyquil or equivalent.
The hospital ED will be a miserable place during a flu epidemic. Long waits, no pillows or blankets. No snacks. No sympathy from the staff!! Sleeping on the floor of the hallways. Remember that the ED staff is probably sick also.

A few situations where hospital care IS needed.

  1. Intractable vomiting (>6-8 times) or vomiting with diarrhea. IV fluids and anti-emetics will help when not able to hydrate by mouth.
  2. Chest pain and shortness of breath with fever, IF associated with fast pulse and low oxygen saturation. Might be pneumonia. Chest x-ray. Supplemental oxygen if oxygen is actually low. Measure pulse rate an oxygen saturation (see below). In children, fast breathing at rest, even after good fever control, points towards pneumonia.
  3. Severe headache even after big doses of Ibuprofen and hydration. Might be meningitis. Spinal tap needed. IV antibiotics might help. Don’t even think about spinal tap until ibuprofen dose has been in body for 2 hours—everyone with the flu has a terrible headache.
  4. Urinary symptoms. UTI can give a ILI, especially in children and women.
  5. Wheezing with cough. May have an asthma-like response to the infection. Albuterol (and maybe steroids) may help. Uncommon.
Equipment list for home treatment of ILI:
  • Costco sized bottle of Ibuprofen or Naproxen. (Use the big dose)
  • Watch with second handto measure pulse rate and respiratory rate.
  • Pulse oximeter,$29 from Walmart or Amazon. This device will save you an ED trip. Recommended! Pic below.
  • Big tumblerfor water. Drink and refill often.
  • Electrolyte powder(mag and K) in water if have diarrhea.
  • Disinfectant wipes.
Your faithful information scout,

~ Chris Martenson

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Not getting any new info out of China
cases at 1400 reported lol

I find it hard to believe that no new cases have emerged here in the US in 48 hours.

I recorded this podcast with Craig Hemke of TF Metals Report this morning.
I think it’s well worth your time, and worth sharing.

From the paper you mention in your article:
We estimated that the ascertainment rate in Wuhan is 5.1% (95%CI, 4.8–5.5), reflecting the difficulty in identifying cases of a novel pathogen. Given the generally good accessibility to healthcare in China, this suggests that the majority of infections may be mild and insufficiently serious for individuals to seek treatment. However, it is worth noting that a number of identified cases have died (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention 2020) and that the true case fatality rate has yet to be estimated accurately. We also estimated the size of the epidemic in Wuhan at the time of the market closure to be 24 individuals (95%CI, 22– 25). Our estimates of epidemiological parameters are sensitive to our assumption regarding the length of the incubation period;
This suggests that:
  1. As you mention above, there are many more cases than reported.
  2. Many cases are going unreported because they are mild so
  3. the death rate might be lower than currently estimated (only severe cases are reported, but most or all deaths reported); however,
  4. epidemic growth rate and transmission to other cities and countries will be much more rapid as many cases among travelers will go undetected, but these people will still be contagious.
  5. The death rate among vulnerable populations is still higher and it will be difficult to protect them from exposure and,
  6. A mutation might raise the death rate among healthy people.
At this point, we're formulating a plan in our family to protect the most vulnerable (mom with a compromised immune system due to multiple myeloma - but otherwise healthy, and another family member with a history of pneumonia as well as some chronic health issues). Tentative plan is to quarantine them in mom's apartment as long as needed once the first cases are reported in our area.

The lack of new info is making me prep more
I have 24 cases of water
2 months worth of diapers
2 months worth of baby formula
60 N95 masks plus one full on respirator
canned soup and fruits

On the one hand there’s no new news, the number of new cases and fatalities is frozen for many hours.
On the other hand there’s this:

One of these two data points is closer to the truth than the other…

For everyone with a plan that includes “I’ll drive to my Plan B location when I need to” this photo underlines the need to leave early if that’s your plan.

I came across this video from inside Hubei. The still doesn’t really do it justice but it’s a long shot of what appears to be a completely abandoned city.

(Source -
My comment here would be this is exactly how you prevent the spread of a disease. Shelter in place. The other side of this is that it only lasts as long as the food and/or water in each household or apartment.

You are so much appreciated!

It is deeply ingrained in the Chinese mind that reports that embarrass the CCP are to be avoided. It’s best to let the Party tell you what the stats should say and then conduct the research that proves those stats. Remember that the CCP hasnt updated its stated gold reserves since 2015 (1948 tons : ya, right). Sum Ting Wong.
Of course all governments work to reduce embarrassment, but some are much better at it than others. The wise person always uses Kentucky windage when looking at government “facts” to estimate the truth so a personal action plan can be developed.
Peak trust is in the rear view mirror. Act accordingly.
So US authorities are bringing home US citizens from Wuhan on a flying, metal incubation tube. Brilliant!

And the US, which has around 1,000 citizens in the city, is set to evacuate those it knows about - including diplomats - on a 230 seater charter flight tomorrow.

The US government won approval for the operation from China's Foreign Ministry and other government agencies following negotiations in recent days, The Wall Street Journal reports. The British Foreign Ministry is yet to confirm whether it will do the same.

My Chinese students told me the CCP notified all citizens that this virus is “no deadlier than the common flu.” Then they proceeded to explain that these kinds of messages are only sent when the CCP is lying, so NOW they are freaked out, because it’s obvious that the reality is the opposite of what the CCP is saying.
The Chinese people ain’t stupid. They know what’s up. I just worry for these kids, whose parents and families are in the heart of a shitstorm thousands of miles away.
Prepare now, people. Now.

Does anyone have an opinion about this Paul Craig Robert’s article? It reminds me of General Powell’s vial of “anthrax” at the UN.

The info available online suggests that all transmission is via droplets and thus not likely without symptoms. Do we have info to the contrary? Also it suggests that the incubation period may be as long as 2 weeks (not 5 days as stated in some articles).

Might want to put a stop loss on any trading positions.

It’s funny skipr, I was just discussing that very possibility with my wife last evening. Governments can be capable of the most outrageous and egregious covert (and overt) behaviors, one just doesn’t know. If we can conceive it, there’s probably someone who’s done it, is planning on doing it, or has considered doing it.

Because of your input I have ordered N95 masks, made a list of medical care at home items to pick up on my next town trip for my household and my elderly mom’s, and have a pot of frozen elderberries on the boil right now. We both have deep pantries but they will get deeper at my earliest opportunity.
Interesting that all of the smaller packages of N95 face masks went out of stock in 2 hours on All dozen or so brands!
I listened to your interview with Craig Hemke and much appreciate the update. It was good to be reminded that potential systemic failures are just as big a concern as actually getting sick from this virus.
Thanks for doing what you do, Chris, and for assembling this fantastic crew of posters.

"At least 9 people being tested for coronavirus in Alameda County "
1/23/2020 news report. “At least…”? So there’s the possibility of more than 9 being tested?

See my earlier post re: 9 Alameda Co., CA being tested.
1 being tested in NC, treated at Duke University Hospital:
2 being tested in MN:
3 being tested in MI: 2 from Washtenaw Co.; 1 from Macomb Co.
1 suspected, Baylor student being tested:
1 TN suspected case tested negative:
See FluTrackers, US for timely updates:

I find it interesting that the exotic animal-fish market is located in the very same city (which, by the way, I’d never heard of before last week!) as a covert, ChiCom , P4 bio-weapons lab?!?! I’m hoping the nCoV Genie didn’t come outta THAT bottle!