Novel coronavirus (19): China (HU) transmission dynamics


Information from a variety of sources suggests that this novel virus is a recombinant betacoronavirus of animal origin that emerged in November or December 2019, likely at the Wuhan Seafood Market. Epidemiological analysis was initiated after recognition of a market-linked pneumonia cluster in late December. Notwithstanding the name of the “Wuhan Seafood Market”, the market sells large numbers of live animals, including wild animals, which are kept in close proximity to one another, perhaps facilitating viral recombination. Similar disrupted ecology contributed to the emergence of SARS.

The emergence of many cases of a novel, animal-derived pathogen in a live animal market, over a short time period was suggestive of a point source outbreak with animal-to-human spread,assuming that the initial cluster of approximately 40 cases was largely a result of such transmission, with little human-to-human transmission. However, on [23 Jan 2020], the WHO released the report of its IHR Emergency Committee for nCoV; the report noted that “4th generation transmission” was occurring. Several estimates of R0 appeared from independent groups around the same time; these estimates were remarkable in their consistency, ranging from 1.4 to 3.8 (refs. 2-7).

Such consistency despite limited data availability and disparate methods employed for estimation provides a degree of face validity to these estimates. I note that these estimates are likely skewed upwards by the greater recognition of larger case clusters and super-spreader events (there has been at least one 14-case cluster in a hospital), and also by the possibility that later cases are being recognized more completely than earlier cases, all of which would have the tendency of biasing R0 estimates upwards. I’ll assume that the lower bound R0 (around 2) is probably about right, and also that this is consistent with estimates from SARS coronavirus, which shares substantial genetic similarity with nCoV.

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EFSA: Risk assessment of African swine fever in the south‐eastern countries of Europe


The assessment estimates the potential for the disease to spread across south-eastern Europe. EFSA evaluated the possibility of spread among nine disease-free countries – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia.
EFSA concludes that the chances of the disease spreading among these countries within one year of introduction are very high (66-100%). However, the chances of the disease spreading west into other EU Member States within the same time frame are rated as very low (0-15%).
According to EFSA early detection and preparedness is key to controlling spread of the disease. In particular, EFSA recommends:

- Rigorous surveillance, especially surveillance of wild boar and domestic pigs, which remains the most effective means for early detection of African swine fever.
- Measures to limit access of wild boar to food and further reduce boar numbers through hunting.
- Awareness campaigns for travellers, hunters, farmers etc. to limit the risk of spread via movement of people, as well as to assist with early detection.
- Communication and collaboration among national authorities and stakeholders to support awareness campaigns.
- Training activities for veterinary officers, other relevant bodies and hunters to increase the probability of early detection and effective control.

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Call launch: supporting the food safety systems of the future

Food Safety

The European Commission has launched a call to develop a research and innovation platform on food safety. It will make it easier for national food safety authorities, EU agencies, policy-makers, the scientific community and civil society to coordinate research efforts. The platform is expected to include information on food safety research and to improve coherence between national and EU funding in food safety research. It will also facilitate new approaches to communication on food safety. Major outcomes of the Commission’s project will be trans-national research programmes, the alignment of national and EU research agendas, and the creation of a Food Safety Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) to address consumers’ expectations, emerging technologies and policy priorities.

Call ID: H2020-FNR-2020

The deadline for applications is 22 January 2020.

For more information see:


EFSA: Poultry welfare at slaughter: hazards identified and measures proposed

Animal WelfarePoultry

Recently EFSA has proposed measures to address the animal welfare hazards most commonly observed during the slaughter of poultry for food production and disease control. A comprehensive overview covers the entire slaughter process from arrival and unloading of birds through stunning to bleeding and killing. It identifies a number of hazards that give rise to welfare issues – such as pain, thirst, hunger or restricted movement – and proposes preventive and corrective measures where possible. Most of the hazards are the result of staff failings e.g. lack of training and skilled personnel. EFSA’s advice highlights the importance of staff being adequately trained in the different phases of slaughter and for clear identification of roles and responsibilities.

The new scientific opinions are the first in a series of updates on welfare of animals at slaughter requested by the European Commission. EFSA will publish further opinions in 2020 on pigs (March), cattle (June), and other species (December).

The reports are available at: