A person with a contagious disease who demonstrates an above-average ability to pass the disease on to others. Also: super-infector, super infector.
In China's Guangdong province ... a shrimp salesman apparently caused 90 others to fall sick at three hospitals in January. Many of those who fell sick apparently did not infect others, but one of them, a doctor named Liu, became a super-infector. He traveled to Hong Kong and stayed at the Metropole Hotel.
Nearly 20 people may have picked up Liu's infection there. One of them was the 26-year-old super-infector who then showed up at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Another man, a Chinese American businessman named Johnny Chen, traveled to Hanoi, where he was hospitalized. He was also a super-infector: 11 health care workers who cared for him fell sick and four died.
In each generation of this expanding network, most of the infected patients apparently recovered without passing on the illness. But a handful, the shrimp salesman, Liu, the 26-year-old and Johnny Chen, became super-infectors.
Shankar Vedantam, "A Single Patient Can Prove Lethal," The Washington Post, April 13, 2003
Singapore Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang said his nation probably faced a longer-term situation with SARS than previously expected. He told reporters in Singapore on Sunday that the disease appeared to have a sub-set of cases involving what he termed "super-infectors." These were victims who were much more infectious than others and therefore affected many others.
"Canada reports fourth death from SARS," United Press International, March 30, 2003
The term superinfector is quite new: it appears to have been coined just a couple of weeks after the World Health Organization issued its first warnings about the SARS epidemic. The more common term used in infectious disease circles is superspreader (also: super-spreader), which dates to at least 1983. Other terms used for the prodigiously contagious are supershedder (2003; also: super-shedder) and cloud case (2003). The latter comes from the somewhat fanciful notion that these disease disseminators walk about under a cloud of germs, making them a kind of epidemiological Joe Btfsplk (the L'il Abner comic strip character who traveled around with a perpetual storm cloud over his head; in case you're wondering, his last name is pronounced with the sound of a "raspberry" or "Bronx cheer").