Transmission of 2019-nCoV Infection from an Asymptomatic Contact in Germany (2020/01/30)

The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from Wuhan is currently causing concern in the medical community as the virus is spreading around the world.1 Since identification of the virus in late December 2019, the number of cases from China that have been imported into other countries is on the rise, and the epidemiologic picture is changing on a daily basis. We are reporting a case of 2019-nCoV infection acquired outside Asia in which transmission appears to have occurred during the incubation period in the index patient.

A 33-year-old otherwise healthy German businessman (Patient 1) became ill with a sore throat, chills, and myalgias on January 24, 2020. The following day, a fever of 39.1°C (102.4°F) developed, along with a productive cough. By the evening of the next day, he started feeling better and went back to work on January 27.

Figure 1.Timeline of Exposure to Index Patient with Asymptomatic 2019-CoV Infection in Germany.

Before the onset of symptoms, he had attended meetings with a Chinese business partner at his company near Munich on January 20 and 21. The business partner, a Shanghai resident, had visited Germany between January 19 and 22. During her stay, she had been well with no signs or symptoms of infection but had become ill on her flight back to China, where she tested positive for 2019-nCoV on January 26 (index patient in Figure 1) (see Supplementary Appendix, available at NEJM.org, for details on the timeline of symptom development leading to hospitalization).

On January 27, she informed the company about her illness. Contact tracing was started, and the above-mentioned colleague was sent to the Division of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine in Munich for further assessment. At presentation, he was afebrile and well. He reported no previous or chronic illnesses and had no history of foreign travel within 14 days before the onset of symptoms. Two nasopharyngeal swabs and one sputum sample were obtained and were found to be positive for 2019-nCoV on quantitative reverse-transcriptase–polymerase-chain-reaction (qRT-PCR) assay.2 Follow-up qRT-PCR assay revealed a high viral load of 108 copies per milliliter in his sputum during the following days, with the last available result on January 29.

Author: Camilla Rothe, Mirjam Schunk, Peter Sothmann, et al.

University Hospital LMU Munich, Munich, Germany

Link: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2001468