Scientists have turned the mystery surrounding the origin of Auckland's August Covid-19 cluster into an informative and interactive narrative.
Using Nextstrain, an open source data visualization platform, scientists were able to rapidly analyse the genomic sequencing of the recent August cluster and hypothesize three possible sources for the outbreak:
1. A border incursion from overseas from either the UK or Ecuador;
2. Undetected community transmission;
3. Fomite transmission on packaging via imported fresh or frozen food;
Key findings from the Nextstrain narrative suggest that the most probable source of the August outbreak came via border incursion however there isn't enough direct evidence to identify this as the sole source. Furthermore, based on the mutations between the April and August clusters as well as the timeframe involved, there is also a less than 1% chance that the August outbreak was formed via undetected community transmission. Additionally, sequencing has also shown that the possibility that the virus lay dormant on imported packaging for a long period of time is very low and not very common since no cases of fomite transmission have been found internationally.
Overall based on the genomic data sequenced so far it's feasible to assume that the source of the August outbreak may never be known. Nonetheless, as the sample size for genomic data increases this may give scientists more confidence in identifying the source of the August cluster as well as understanding in isolating any future clusters.
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