The British man who is believed to have passed on the new coronavirus to at least 11 people revealed his identity and said he’s “fully recovered.”
Steve Walsh, 53, traveled to Singapore for a business conference in January. Before returning to Britain, Walsh visited a ski chalet in France.
Five people who also stayed at the chalet tested positive for the virus, French authorities said. Five others in the United Kingdom who had contact with a known case in France also tested positive, British authorities said. And a person in Spain who tested positive was believed to have caught the virus from Walsh, a so-called super spreader, or one or transmits more infections than the majority of sick people do.
“This is not particularly surprising but it does appear that the index case has passed on the infection to an unusually large number of contacts. As such, he could be termed a super-spreader,” infectious diseases expert Dr. Andrew Freedman told The Guardian.
Coronaviruses are typically found in animals but in rare cases can jump to humans and begin to transmit person-to-person. The new virus, also known as the Wuhan coronavirus, started in the Chinese city in December 2019 and has infected tens of thousands of people, mostly in China.
The incubation period of the new virus can be as long as 24 days, according to a new study, and the virus can spread through the air in addition to close contact transmission.
Walsh is still in quarantine in a hospital in London but issued a statement saying he’s doing well and expressing gratitude to the National Health Service (NHS).
“I would like to thank the NHS for their help and care—whilst I have fully recovered, my thoughts are with others who have contracted coronavirus,” he said in the statement, which was sent to news outlets.
Walsh said he contacted his doctor and the NHS after learning he had been exposed to a confirmed case of the new virus and was told to self-isolate at home.
“When the diagnosis was confirmed I was sent to an isolation unit in hospital, where I remain, and, as a precaution, my family was also asked to isolate themselves,” Walsh said.
“I also thank friends, family, and colleagues for their support during recent weeks and I ask the media to respect our privacy.”
Walsh’s wife and two daughters have tested negative for the virus.
Servomex, Walsh’s employer, organized the business conference in Singapore, where people from South Korea, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom were infected.
“We are very pleased that Steve Walsh has made a full recovery. We continue to provide support to him and his family,” Servomex said in a statement. “We are working with public health authorities to ensure the welfare of our staff and communities and wish anyone with the virus a quick and full recovery.”
EasyJet said that 183 passengers and six crew members were on the flight that Walsh took from Geneva to Gatwick Airport in London on Jan. 28.
Crew members were told to monitor their health and none are displaying any symptoms, the airline said in a statement.
Public Health England’s Emeritus Medical Director Paul Cosford told Sky News earlier Monday that four new cases confirmed in Britain were “not a surprise” because of their links to a known case, believed to be Walsh.
Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, said in a statement that the new cases were known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case and the virus was passed on in France.