Traveling salesperson called virus 'super spreader'

A traveling salesperson helped spread the coronavirus in Maine and several other states early in the outbreak last month, the leader of the Maine Center for Disease Control said.

The salesperson was a so-called “super spreader,” a single person responsible for a significant number of exposures to the virus, Dr. Nirav Shah said, the center's director, said Thursday.

“This traveling salesperson visited a particular establishment in Maine and had a series of meetings and infected a certain number of individuals, all of whom we traced," Shah said.

The person was linked to infections outside Maine, as well, Shah said. He declined to release details, citing privacy concerns.

The discovery highlights how the spread of the coronavirus can often be traced to individuals and gatherings.

One of the concerns is that the virus can be easily spread by infected people who are not showing symptoms.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

In Maine, more than 550 people have been infected with the virus, and at least 16 people had died as of Thursday.

In other virus-related developments in the state:


More than 5,000 small businesses in Maine are approved for more than $1 billion in forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said.

“This more than $1 billion in urgently needed relief is great news for our state, and it will help thousands of Maine small employers continue to pay their employees and keep from closing their doors,” the Maine Republican said in a statement.

Paycheck Protection Program loans were created by the Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act to help small employers continue to pay their workers for an eight-week period during the pandemic.

Dozens of Maine lending institutions are participating in the program. The bill was authored by Collins along with Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire.