Influenza spreads readily in winter conditions

October 19, 2007

Low temperatures and relative humidities have been linked to the rapid spread of influenza in a new study by researchers, led by Dr. Peter Palese, from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The study, published in PLoS Pathogens, supports the theory of the seasonal flu.

Influenza has long been considered a seasonal virus. Factors including indoor crowding during cold weather, seasonal fluctuations in host immune responses, relative humidity, temperature, and UV radiation have all been suggested to account for this phenomenon, but none of these hypotheses had previously been tested directly.

The researchers tested the effects of temperature and relative humidity on infected and naive guinea pigs. The study found that low relative humidities of 20%-30% induced the rapid spread of the virus, with the opposite effect at 80% or above. Also, results showed that the virus spread more easily at 5 °C than at 20 °C, with no transmission at 30 °C.

The data implicates that low relative humidities produced by indoor heating and winter temperatures favor the spread of influenza. This study should serve as the basis for understanding the seasonality of other viral infections.

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Parasitic disease: Contact rates, competition matter in transmission

Related Stories

NIAID DNA vaccine for H5N1 avian influenza enters human trial

January 3, 2007

The first human trial of a DNA vaccine designed to prevent H5N1 avian influenza infection began on December 21, 2006, when the vaccine was administered to the first volunteer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical ...

Social separation stops flu spread, but must be started soon

April 30, 2009

A disease spread simulation has emphasized that flu interventions must be imposed quickly, if they are to be effective. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Public Health have shown that staying at home, closing ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2007

I always figured that this is why our bodies go into fever mode; to drive out the heat intollerant virus.

And, the Homer Simpson "DOH!" award goes to...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.