Influenza spreads readily in winter conditions

Oct 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: Research milestone in CCHF virus could help identify new treatments

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sea otters can get the flu, too

Apr 08, 2014

Northern sea otters living off the coast of Washington state were infected with the same H1N1 flu virus that caused the world-wide pandemic in 2009, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey and Centers for ...

Single mutation gives virus new target

Oct 21, 2013

In a new study published online in the journal PLOS Pathogens, an international team of scientists showed that by swapping a single amino acid they could change the sugar to which the human BK polyomavirus will b ...

Target 'super-spreaders' to stop hepatitis C

Jan 31, 2013

Each intravenous drug user contracting Hepatitis C is likely to infect around 20 other people with the virus, half of these transmissions occurring in the first two years after the user is first infected, a new study estimates.

Recommended for you

New biomedical implants accelerate bone healing

2 hours ago

A major success in developing new biomedical implants with the ability to accelerate bone healing has been reported by a group of scientists from the Department of Restorative Dentistry, University of Malaya. ...

A new way to prevent the spread of devastating diseases

19 hours ago

For decades, researchers have tried to develop broadly effective vaccines to prevent the spread of illnesses such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. While limited progress has been made along these lines, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
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...