Why influenza spreads in the winter

Here’s an interesting press release about some work being done at Virginia Tech on understanding why “flu season” is in the winter.

It turns out that humidity is a major factor. When infected people cough and sneeze, they fill the air with droplets of mucus and saliva. Those particles distribute the virus to others, either through direct inhalation or by contact with the places they land: doorknobs, counters, etc. But generally speaking most viral particles don’t survive well outside human bodies for long; even the difference between body temperature and indoor “room temperature” is enough to cause them to disintegrate and renders them harmless.

But the researchers have discovered that in low-humidity environments, like in the winter when our indoor heating systems dry out the air, those airborne droplets can dry out completely, “preserving the virus like microscopic beef jerky.”

Please take a moment now to savor the mental image of influenza beef jerky.

The take-away: keeping your house more humid in the winter will help stop influenza and other viruses from spreading in your household.



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