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: Manipulating key protein in the brain holds potential against obesity and diabetes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Unleashing the power of quantum dot triplets

40 minutes ago

Quantum computers have yet to materialise. Yet, scientists are making progress in devising suitable means of making such computers faster. One such approach relies on quantum dots—a kind of artificial atom, ...

Chemist develops X-ray vision for quality assurance

58 minutes ago

It is seldom sufficient to read the declaration of contents if you need to know precisely what substances a product contains. In fact, to do this you need to be a highly skilled chemist or to have genuine ...

The future of ultrashort laser pulses

1 hour ago

Rapid advances in techniques for the creation of ultra-short laser pulses promise to boost our knowledge of electron motions to an unprecedented level.

Recommended for you

New technology allows hair to reflect almost any color

Jul 25, 2014

What if you could alter your hair to reflect any color in the spectrum? What if you could use a flatiron to press a pattern into your new hair color? Those are possibilities suggested by researchers from ...

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...