The sudden emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and its ensuing spread worldwide has once again brought attention to the somewhat esoteric field of epidemiology. Two important metrics that describe epidemic growth are the basic (and initial) reproduction number, R0 (“R-naught”), and the current reproduction number, Rt (R at time t).

The basic reproduction number is defined as the typical number of secondary infections produced by each infected individual in a completely susceptible population. In other words, if you get infected, how many people are likely to catch it from you? If you are likely to give it to 10 people, and each of them gives it to 10 people, then in just two generations there are 100 cases. So if R0 is 10, that's a problem!...

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