How contagious is COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

Grade level: 4th – 6th grades

Skills: Bar graphs

Related environmental issues: Others

As of May 7, 2020, more than 3.78 million cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have been reported in the world. Throughout history, infectious diseases as vicious as COVID-19 have spread the world and sickened people on a worldwide scale.

The bar graph below shows the level of contagiousness of some diseases, illustrating how many people become infected by one sick person on average.

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  1. Among those diseases, which disease has been most contagious?
  2. Among those diseases, which disease has been as contagious as COVID-19?
  3. Among those diseases, which disease have been more contagious than COVID-19 but less contagious than Mumps?


* The graph was created by using the values of R0, basic reproduction number, of the diseases.

Source: Guerra, Fiona M.; Bolotin, Shelly; Lim, Gillian; Heffernan, Jane; Deeks, Shelley L.; Li, Ye; Crowcroft, Natasha S. (December 1, 2017). “The basic reproduction number (R0) of measles: a systematic review”. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 17 (12): e420–e428. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(17)30307-9. ISSN 1473-3099. PMID 28757186. Retrieved March 18, 2020.

Australian government Department of Health Mumps Laboratory Case Definition (LCD)

Gani, Raymond; Leach, Steve (December 2001). “Transmission potential of smallpox in contemporary populations”. Nature. 414 (6865): 748–751. doi:10.1038/414748a. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 11742399. Retrieved March 18, 2020.

Li Q, Guan X, Wu P, Wang X, Zhou L, Tong Y, et al. (January 2020). “Early Transmission Dynamics in Wuhan, China, of Novel Coronavirus-Infected Pneumonia”. The New England Journal of Medicine. 382 (13): 1199–1207. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2001316. PMC 7121484. PMID 31995857.

Riou, Julien; Althaus, Christian L. (2020). “Pattern of early human-to-human transmission of Wuhan 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), December 2019 to January 2020”. Eurosurveillance. 25 (4). doi:10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.4.2000058. PMC 7001239. PMID 32019669.

Wu, Joseph T.; Leung, Kathy; Bushman, Mary; Kishore, Nishant; Niehus, Rene; de Salazar, Pablo M.; Cowling, Benjamin J.; Lipsitch, Marc; Leung, Gabriel M. (March 19, 2020). “Estimating clinical severity of COVID-19 from the transmission dynamics in Wuhan, China”. Nature Medicine. 26 (4): 506–510. doi:10.1038/s41591-020-0822-7. ISSN 1546-170X. PMID 32284616.

Sanche, Steven; Lin, Yen Ting; Xu, Chonggang; Romero-Severson, Ethan; Hengartner, Nick; Ke, Ruian (April 7, 2020). “High Contagiousness and Rapid Spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2”. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 26 (7). doi:10.3201/eid2607.200282. PMID 32255761. Retrieved April 9, 2020.

Wallinga J, Teunis P (2004). “Different epidemic curves for severe acute respiratory syndrome reveal similar impacts of control measures”. Am. J. Epidemiol. 160 (6): 509–16. doi:10.1093/aje/kwh255. PMC 7110200. PMID 15353409. Archived from the original on October 6, 2007.



Answer keys

1. Measles
3. Smallpox


Factful Environmental Math Problems (2020)

Just published and now available from Amazon  (paperback)

About this book

The objective of Factful Environmental Math Problems is to cultivate our young people’s skills to analyze and evaluate fact-based data for understanding our world, while improving their math skills and critical thinking skills.

With the rise of the Internet and new technology, building skills to analyze and evaluate fact-based data becomes increasingly important for our young people to prepare for this rapidly changing world. These skills minimize their chances of being brainwashed by false information and making uninformed decisions and ultimately help develop their critical thinking skills. (Read more)

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Published: March 26, 2020

Price: $6.25