How One Traveler Set Off a Coronavirus Outbreak in Germany

A play-by-play of how one business trip spread Covid-19 through a company in Munich

Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog
4 min readMay 16, 2020

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Credit: wildpixel/Getty Images

In a new paper published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers in Germany chronicle an outbreak in Germany that started with a single traveler from China. It’s the first reported cluster of Covid-19 cases with human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 within Europe and outside of Asia, and it’s a fascinating read.

The researchers looked at an outbreak in Bavaria, Germany, which started at the end of January 2020. The Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority was informed on January 27 that a German resident working for a company in the greater Munich area had tested positive for the virus that causes Covid-19. The patient zero for this outbreak was then identified as a Chinese resident who visited Germany for a business meeting with that company (they work for the Chinese branch of the German company). That person is from Shanghai and had recently visited with their parents from Wuhan before the business trip.

This one person caused 16 additional cases of Covid-19, most with mild symptoms. The researchers believe that the spread likely happened before significant symptoms occurred. Health authorities and researchers immediately began work to manage…

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Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Health and science journalist. Former editor of Medium’s Covid-19 Blog and deputy editor at Elemental. TIME Magazine writer before that