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Researchers Explain Why Flu Comes In the Winter

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the cold-in-the-cold dept.

Medicine 129

First time accepted submitter ggrocca writes "Using human mucus as a testbed for how well influenza virus thrives in different humidity conditions, researchers at Virginia Tech found that the virus survived best if humidity is below 50%, a typical indoor situation during the winter in temperate climates due to artificial heating. The virus begins to find itself at home again only when humidity reaches almost 100%. Unsurprisingly, the latter finding explains flu spikes during rainy season in tropical climates. Full paper on PLOS ONE."

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129 comments

Interesting (0)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | about a year ago | (#42638853)

But influenza is not exactly something new. Why is this a new discovery?

Re:Interesting (2)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42638933)

Why it seems to always be an epidemic in the winter is a new discovery, I mean unless you knew it was about the humidity and did not share with the rest of the world.

Re:Interesting (1, Insightful)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#42639791)

I'm not a scientist, and I've conducted no fancy experiments... but based on what I already knew, I just kind of assumed that humidity was a key factor. Considering, you know, it goes straight to shit in the winter, once the furnace starts coming on constantly. I get nosebleeds as the humidity lowers, and again closer to spring sometimes (though around spring it could just be the reintroduction of pollen). It's a pathetic 16% humidity in here right now, which is so damn low it even makes 70 feel relatively chilly. And it could be even lower--I've never even seen it go below 16%, so it's possible that's just the lowest it will read. As far as temperature goes, that doesn't really change much throughout the year... 70-74 when the furnace regulates it, and up to 95 or so in the summer, with the occasional slightly higher temperature.

Of course, it doesn't help the fact that people tend to be inside more often when it's cold out. Well... actually that does help... the viruses. Perfect survival conditions, and lots of people around sneezing to spread them. It's like a flu paradise. Those damn viruses should be thanking us, but all we get is infections.

Re:Interesting (2)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year ago | (#42639827)

This is really, really interesting.

I haven't had the flu. Not ever. I've got two dehumidifiers running full time to keep my house at 60% humidity. I pull several gallons of water out of the air every day. With them off (if I forget to empty the tanks before I leave for work) it'll creep up to 90% humidity.

Re:Interesting (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#42640109)

I wish I had to just worry about keeping the humidity level down. I have a dehumidifier that I use in the summer to keep it around 35-40%. If it didn't get so hot, I'd just let it creep up to 55 or so percent humidity (it seems to stop not too much higher anyway), but 88 at 50% humidity feels like complete shit; no number of fans will really correct that. A humidifier would be useful for whenever the furnace is on, but I have to question how well they will work... they mostly have tiny "tanks" that look like they wouldn't even hold enough water to make a pot of tea, and I'd be surprised if they could humidify even one closed room for a full 24 hours. And then most of them are the trash type that don't even use pure heat to properly evaporate the water (like a stove), so they would most likely end up putting a mineral deposit layer on everything near it.

I've been trying to figure out a way around this for a while now.

Re:Interesting (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year ago | (#42640489)

This is really, really interesting.

I haven't had the flu. Not ever. I've got two dehumidifiers running full time to keep my house at 60% humidity. I pull several gallons of water out of the air every day. With them off (if I forget to empty the tanks before I leave for work) it'll creep up to 90% humidity.

Same here on the dehumidifiers. Guess it's about what part of the world you live in.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42641393)

How do you know you've never, ever had the flu before? You've never had a cold either? Because most of the symptoms of the flu and a cold are nearly identical, and if you have a mild flu there is really no way to distinguish it from a cold without doing a lab test, something that almost never, ever happens when you feel you are just having a mild cold.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42641447)

Oh and another thing, unless you stay mostly home *and* have a whole bunch of people running in and out of your house, your home is probably least likely place you to pickup the flu.
You pick it up in places where you are in contact with other people, like your work place for example, or the supermarket, or some public transport...
If you would just sit around at home and never meet other people, you could probably go a whole lifetime without getting a flu.

Re:Interesting (1)

David_W (35680) | about a year ago | (#42640975)

And it could be even lower--I've never even seen it go below 16%, so it's possible that's just the lowest it will read.

VERY very possible... I have 3 in the house. One bottoms out at 16, the other two switch to ---% when it is below 15. Oh, and the one in this room is reading 16 right now... yay.

Re:Interesting (1)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about a year ago | (#42639923)

I read something similar a few years ago, but the connection was made between absolute humidity and the survival of influenza. On reading this article, it seems unclear to me what type of humidity is being referred to...absolute or relative. Leave it to the Wall Street Journal to write a crappy scientific article. I suppose relative humidity is usually measured in percentages, but still.

What I found most compelling about the idea of absolute humidity being the important factor was that it explains why influenza is less common in Phoenix, for example. Hot desert areas usually have low relative humidity, but the absolute humidity in grams H2O per cubic metre is usually quite high.

Re:Interesting (1)

craigminah (1885846) | about a year ago | (#42640701)

I've wondered why people get sick in the winter and assumed it was due to the dry air...seemed pretty obvious finding proof is the part that made news.

Re:Interesting (1)

ra25093 (2811813) | about a year ago | (#42638935)

Nobody thought of it before? A lot of research comes from a single "wait a minute, why does this happen?" Most people thought it was related to temperature, then most people thought temperature was an old wives' tale but had no idea the reason.

Re:Interesting (5, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year ago | (#42639109)

What is really interesting is how many of these old hand-me-down tidbits from Grandma wind up being rooted in accuracy, even if the underlying logic is flawed. The existence of recorded information has been a boon to modern medical practices, but prior to the very last few generations, how much accurate medical knowledge one had access to was directly proportionate to the quality of the info passed down through the matriarchal network.

Re:Interesting (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about a year ago | (#42640337)

>even if the underlying logic is flawed

Because it's not logic that underlies it, but something more fundamental - experience.

Re:Interesting (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#42639125)

The holidays are mostly in the winter along with people staying indoors because its cold

For a long time it was thought that people getting together passed the virus

Re:Interesting (1)

quenda (644621) | about a year ago | (#42639381)

Explain this: I live in Australia (holidays primarily in summer), in a mediterranean (south calif.) climate. Hot dry summers (low humidity) and wet winters (high humidity), with few people having central heating (it ain't cold enough to bother). Yet we still have winter as flu season. Hypothesis dismissed.

Re:Interesting (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year ago | (#42639447)

The virus begins to find itself at home again only when humidity reaches almost 100%. Unsurprisingly, the latter finding explains flu spikes during rainy season in tropical climates.

That answer your question? I didn't even have to read further than the summary to find that (I'm an Australian too, btw).

Re:Interesting (1)

quenda (644621) | about a year ago | (#42639539)

That answer your question? I didn't even have to read further than the summary to find that (I'm an Australian too, btw).

No, Perth is certainly not that humid in winter, maybe 60-70%. And less humid in summer.

Re:Interesting (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year ago | (#42640689)

Seriously, haven't you experienced the last few weeks of 80-90% humidity with record temperatures here? Also, winter humidity on most days does hover around 60-70% yes, but that's an AVERAGE day. We still experience plenty of days during winter at around 90-100%.

Vitamin D hypothesis -- low levels in winter (4, Informative)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about a year ago | (#42639685)

In winter, people make little to no vitamin D: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_D_and_influenza [wikipedia.org]

Even in places near the equator, if people stay indoors to avoid rain, they will have lower vitamin D levels, unless they supplement.

Re:Vitamin D hypothesis -- low levels in winter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42640573)

How then do you explain the average /.er's penchant for living in their parent's basement 24/7. As a basement dweller myself, I rarely ever seen the sun. Yet, I get the flu during the winter seasons myself as well and not any time during the year. This seems to refute your presumption it has anything to do with vitamin D. I much prefer the humidity explanation.

Re:Vitamin D hypothesis -- low levels in winter (2)

cpotoso (606303) | about a year ago | (#42640635)

YOU don't get the flu other than in winter because there is nobody to transmit it to you. On the other hand, you probably do not interact with anybody so it is a mystery how you get it... :)

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639433)

Also, dryer air also dries the mucus membranes in the sinuses, making ithem work less effecectively, and making it easier for viruses to penetrate this primary defense system in the body. This is believed to be one of the reasons why you are mre likely to get sick aftercairvtravel ( very low humidity on planes).

Oh, really? (1)

Banichi (1255242) | about a year ago | (#42638865)

Where does Madagascar fit in that theory?

Re:Oh, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42638887)

It's entertaining to watch while you're stuck on the couch with flu.

Re:Oh, really? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42638945)

The virus begins to find itself at home again only when humidity reaches almost 100%. Unsurprisingly, the latter finding explains flu spikes during rainy season in tropical climates.

Re:Oh, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639017)

It does compute. It simply means that the survivability curve is nonlinear. It's U-shaped, concave up.

Re:Oh, really? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42639033)

I was pointing out why it explains Madagascar, a tropic region, not disputing anything. That it expands at 2 points and drops elsewhere shows logically that it is nonlinear.

Re:Oh, really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639107)

Madagascar is fairly irrelevant to this. I mean, the virus would have to reach it first before survivability comes into question, which it can't because the port is always closed.

Thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42638885)

I have asked this question for years without a satisfactory response. Finally, a scientific answer!

something doesnt add up (1)

Ruede (824831) | about a year ago | (#42638911)

wait, the virus survives best @ 50% humidity and less - but the virus feels at home @ nearly 100% humidity? does not compute

Re:something doesnt add up (4, Informative)

yeshuawatso (1774190) | about a year ago | (#42638971)

It does add up if you read the article. The virus survives in humidity levels below 50% and above 98% since 98% simulates the human body. It doesn't fair as well at humidity levels between 60-80%.

Re:something doesnt add up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42641065)

It doesn't fair as well at humidity levels between 60-80%

You could even say it "fairs" well at "fare" humidity levels.

Re:something doesnt add up (1)

a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) | about a year ago | (#42639021)

"But in between, in a humidity of 50% to 98%, the virus doesn't survive very well."

Strange but true.

Re:something doesnt add up (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#42639649)

"But in between, in a humidity of 50% to 98%, the virus doesn't survive very well."

Strange but true.

And yet, when they grow the virus to create the vacinne it is in a laboratory with a humidity of 50% to 98%.

Re:something doesnt add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639037)

Acrually, all it means is that the survivability curve is nonlinear. It's going to be roughly U-shaped, concave up.

Re:something doesnt add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639069)

What surprises me is that the study quotes relative humidity values. I would expect absolute humidity values to be the key. Colder air has less ability to hold water, therefore a relative humidity of, e.g., 50% at 0 degrees means something completely different than would 50% humidity at 30 degrees.

Re: something doesnt add up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639165)

It means you touch youself at night.

Put your dick away and join the party!

Re:something doesnt add up (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42639173)

It could be that as you heat the air in your house the relative humidity goes down, for that exact reason.

Re:something doesnt add up (5, Interesting)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#42639297)

The virus is like a noodle - kept dry, it lasts a long time. Thoroughly wet, it does it's thing. Slightly moist, it goes bad.

Re:something doesnt add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42640273)

Not a car analogy, but good shit anyway.

It's like your fuel pump. Put your.... eh nevermind.

Re:something doesnt add up (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#42639477)

It's like how humans survive best if they don't sit on the couch in the basement eating cheetos and watching Big Bang Theory on an endless loop, but we sure do feel at home there.

Something else to keep in mind (2)

Guppy06 (410832) | about a year ago | (#42638939)

Just because central heating drives down the relative humidity to 50% indoors doesn't mean it's not also near 100% outdoors, where colder temperatures give much higher relative humidity for the same humidity ratio.

Re:Something else to keep in mind (2)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42639059)

What is the point? So, it does not survive as well outside, except in our systems, but it will still thrive in your home.

Artificial heating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42638943)

Huh? It's that there's just less humidity in the air in the winter. And since my inside air comes from the outside, it follows that it would be drier inside. Unless heating burns the water? What kind of nonsense is this? If it's 21C in a room in summer and 21C in the same room in winter due to "artificial heating", how can the water in the air tell the difference? "Quick guys, it's winter, we need to dissociate into hydrogen and oxygen so we can fool the humans into thinking it's the baseboards"

Very silly. When it's humid outside, it's humid inside.

Re:Artificial heating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42638993)

look up how central heating works. It does drive the moisture out of the air.

Re:Artificial heating? (2)

SrLnclt (870345) | about a year ago | (#42639239)

Try looking at a psychometric chart sometime. Heating does not change the amount of moisture in the air. Air can hold more moisture at higher temperatures, which is why air feels "dryer" when it is heated coming out of your furnace.

Or you could stick a bucket under your condensate drain off your AC/furnace and see how much water collects in the winter.

Re:Artificial heating? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42639023)

The reason it is called air conditioning is not just because it heats and cools your home/work/car is also because it lowers the humidity. This is one of the reasons why you can turn on ice cold air in your car and it will still defrost your windows to an extent. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_conditioning [wikipedia.org] An air conditioner (often referred to as AC) is a major or home appliance, system, or mechanism designed to change the air temperature and humidity within an area

Re:Artificial heating? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639087)

No air conditioner heats the inside air. I live in an apartment with cheap and cheerful electric baseboards. No central air, no nothing. Just resistors in a box and air from the outside. It gets drier in winter on its own. And if it gets more humid outside in winter because climate change makes it rain in January, well guess what? My humidity rises inside as well.

I know because I have a RH meter at my desk. When the temperature swings by 20C overnight to -20, it gets much drier inside, low 30s. That's when I turn on my cheap and cheerful water boiler thing until it hits about 50.

Re:Artificial heating? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42639103)

So it means you have a heater, not an air conditioner. Most people have air conditioners.

Re:Artificial heating? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about a year ago | (#42639117)

Absolute humidity is how much moisture there is in the air total relative humdity is how much moisture there is in the air compared to the ammount it can hold at that temperature. When you heat your house with a sealed heating system (heating with an open fire is more complex because there is water in the combustion prducts) the absolute humidity stays the same but the relative humidity drops.

And relative humidity not absolute humidity is what we generally care about.

Old news (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42638947)

Feb 2009 article found the same thing:
http://articles.cnn.com/2009-02-11/health/healthmag.humidifier.flu_1_humidity-water-vapor-winter-flu-season?_s=PM:HEALTH

How do they explain dry areas? (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#42638955)

In Phoenix, relative humidity is below 50% on average from April thru September. In Albuquerque, it's March through June. Does flu hold out year round in those areas?

Well, it is also linked to less vitamin D (2)

transporter_ii (986545) | about a year ago | (#42638967)

The virus is around year round. However, in the winter you stay inside and get less sunlight...thus less vitamin D.

Re:Well, it is also linked to less vitamin D (1, Insightful)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#42639095)

Not to mention that your immune system is compromised trying to keep you warm in cold weather. But why let that common, eternal wisdom get in the way of a new study?

And isn't it dry in cold places like Colorado in the winter? When I was there, it was so dry I got nosebleeds just because of the dryness. And yet people were still getting colds by the dozens.

Re:Well, it is also linked to less vitamin D (2)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42639147)

First there is no empirical link between the temperature dropping and the weakening your immune system, that could be, and possibly is, an old wives tale. A previous study showed that the people must likely to get sick during the winter are those with already weakened immune systems. Also the study said it thrives at the following x50 and x is approximately 100, therefore 0-49% humidity falls within those parameters.

Re:Well, it is also linked to less vitamin D (2)

transporter_ii (986545) | about a year ago | (#42639481)

> And yet people were still getting colds by the dozens

I've been a vegetarian off and on over my life. Right now, I have just been trying to eat better, exercise a little more, and I consider myself to be a flextarian (I eat meat, just way less of it than typical Americans).

During times of eating right, I get sick a fraction of what my friends and family do, but if I eat the Standard American Diet, I get sick every time someone sneezes around me.

Right now, almost every single co-worker I have at work has been deathly ill this winter...I've had the sniffles a couple of times. I'm not saying I'm bulletproof, but I know very well from first-hand anecdotal evidence that Americans bring a lot of pain and suffering upon themselves due to diet/lifestyle factors.

See:

http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=666526 [healthday.com]

Dr. Joel Fuhrman would agree (2)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about a year ago | (#42639749)

http://www.drfuhrman.com/shop/super_immunity_book.aspx [drfuhrman.com]

Things to be aware of that he would mention:
* vitamin D deficiency
* iodine deficiency
* B-complex deficiency
* omega-3s deficiency
* eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, and beans, and some nuts, seeds, and whole grains
* avoid refined sugars and grains
* avoid food additives (artificial colors, artificial flavors, most preservatives)

Many vegans and vegetarians eat a refined starch-heavy diet with too little vegetables and so are sicker than meat-eaters who also eat a lot of veggies.

In the case of influenza, a lot of it is probably due to vitamin D deficiency in the winter, whether from the Earth's tilt relative to the sun or from cloudy weather and stay indoors in rainy season near the Equator. People probably generally eat less vegetables in winter, too.

Heat does NOT REMOVE humidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42638969)

The cold windows do.

Re:Heat does NOT REMOVE humidity (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42639121)

No one said that heat alone removes humility, a roaring fire in the fireplace will not remove humidity, but that is not how conditioners work.

Re:Heat does NOT REMOVE humidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42640763)

"a typical indoor situation during the winter in temperate climates due to artificial heating."

Re:Heat does NOT REMOVE humidity (3, Informative)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#42639883)

Relative humidity. The ability of air to absorb water goes up with its temperature. So, for a fixed amount of moisture in a quantity of air, when you heat it, its capacity to absorb more goes up.

Re:Heat does NOT REMOVE humidity (1)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | about a year ago | (#42641073)

No, but the steady flow of water coming from the condenser on my furnace is a pretty good clue that it is removing water.

Re:Heat does NOT REMOVE humidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42641187)

Um...

CH4 + 2 O2 --> CO2 + 2 H2O

If you burn any hydrogen containing fuel, you end up with extra water, even if you don't change the moisture content of the surrounding air.

Re:Heat does NOT REMOVE humidity (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#42641461)

Right. And I'll venture a guess that its a high efficiency gas furnace. Those attain their high efficiency by removing so much heat from the combustion gas that the water produced by combustion condenses out. There's also quite a bit of energy released by that condensation itself (latent heat of vaporization). So that water isn't extracted from the conditioned (room) air. It's from the combustion gas.

Different story for air conditioners, of course.

How does school and holiday travel figure in? (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#42638973)

I always figured schools were a big part of it. Pack 25-35 kids in a classroom. Reshuffle the kids 6 to 8 times per day. It's an ideal environment for spreading any contagious disease.

So are airplanes.

Re:How does school and holiday travel figure in? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639007)

Schools are mandatory, the people are owned by the state, not free.
All around the world and no escape.

Re:How does school and holiday travel figure in? (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#42640289)

Schools are mandatory, the people are owned by the state, not free.

That's stupid, we have mandatory schools because most people wanted it. If you want to change things, you need to convince people around you to change. Good luck.

All around the world and no escape.

No, you are confused, because it is hard to live with people. If you live in a house with 5 people, sometimes they will ask you to clean. It's annoying, I know. If you live in a country with 300 million people, sometimes they will also impose their will on you. It's annoying, but living with people is hard, even if you're the king.

Re:How does school and holiday travel figure in? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42640949)

No, you are stupid. Schools are mandatory because people do not want them to be. Just like taxes, the draft, laws. The state uses violence to impose its will.

If you live in a house and you help, it is your choice. No one is using force on you. You can leave at any point.

People impose their will on you via the state not because you want to or it is necessary to live in a group. It is just because it benefits some and not others.

I guess you would be fine with me forcing you to pay me monthly so 'we can get along'?

Re:How does school and holiday travel figure in? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42641205)

Everyone ignore this troll.

Re:How does school and holiday travel figure in? (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#42641229)

People impose their will on you via the state not because you want to or it is necessary to live in a group

People impose their will on you via the state because historically it has proven better than everyone trying to impose their will on each other via threats and violence.

Re:How does school and holiday travel figure in? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639123)

Schools and planes are also packed during warm weather as well, but Influenza occurs much more often in cold weather. that was teh point of this article.

And this nothing to do with.. (1)

drewsup (990717) | about a year ago | (#42639001)

the fact that when it's cold outside, more people are inside, especially communal indoor places like malls, food halls, etc. A more efficient route of transfer?

Re:And this nothing to do with.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639591)

Fun anecdote: Here in Iowa, we were shut in for the Holidays due to snow and cold. On New Years' Eve, downtown they had an indoor kid-friendly event. We were determined to get out of the house by then. So the whole city ended up bringing their kids to one indoor location.

Yep, brought home the flu, sure enough! We're still recovering.

Cold? (1)

Outthere057 (566345) | about a year ago | (#42639287)

I work outside year round with a week or two off when its really cold. (below 20 F). I hardly ever get sick. Yes I'll get head colds runny nose and maybe a light cough but who doesn't when the weather is changing. but as far a s the flu. almost never. I can only think of twice in the last 17 years and the firs time I still worked.

Re:Cold? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a year ago | (#42639419)

If you are doing manual labor then you till probably have a very strong immune system

Re:Cold? (1)

Outthere057 (566345) | about a year ago | (#42640709)

I did a lot of playing in the dirt when i was a kid and I guess I do now too. I think that is part of the problem now days is people are trying to keep their kids out of the dirt so they never build tolerances and end up being sicker more often when older.

Re:Cold? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42639429)

Dude, a head cold or cough means you're sick.

Re:Cold? (1)

Outthere057 (566345) | about a year ago | (#42640683)

Not really I could have drainage witch will cause me to cough and feel fine. With as much as the weather changes around where i live 60 one day down to 15 at night 2 days later usually leads to minor sinus problems. I have a friend who would be sick for days every time there was a big change in the weather.

Re:Cold? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#42639701)

I work outside year round with a week or two off when its really cold. (below 20 F). I hardly ever get sick. Yes I'll get head colds runny nose and maybe a light cough but who doesn't when the weather is changing. but as far a s the flu. almost never. I can only think of twice in the last 17 years and the firs time I still worked.

Because for the flu to spread or even the common cold, you have to come into contact with an infected person. Most likely, there are fewer people you come into contact with in the course of your work than say in an office building and therefore the likelihood of you coming into contact with an infected person is even less.

It is the same reason why the monks in the middle ages survived the plague that decimated the towns. Since they were isolated from the infected people (or fleas), they did not contract it. If you study pandamecis, they almost always hit metropolitan areas and not rural areas, or at least not to the same extent.

Re:Cold? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#42639731)

That should have been "If you study epidemics..." not pandamecis, which is not only mispelled, but by the time a pandemic occurs, it hits both city and country alike.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Conditions (1)

SrLnclt (870345) | about a year ago | (#42639353)

Typical indoor HVAC design conditions: Summer - 75F / 50% RH, Winter - 70F / 30% RH. So indoors I would think the virus would survive well year round, just better during winter.

Outdoors the air temperature might swing 20-30F between the day and night. This is going to swing the RH levels in an even wider range - maybe between 20% and 80% depending on season, time of day, local climate etc.

I would think the virus survival would correlate better with time periods when there isn't much change in the outdoor air temperature/humidity levels for several days during winter, rather than anything with indoor conditions.

Flaw in the study (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#42639799)

There is a major flaw in the study. First it states that the flu virus thrives in humidity conditions below 50% which explains why in the winter we have these outbreaks. However, with modern heating and cooling systems, indoor humidity levels are almost always below 50%. At 55% is where mold begins to grow, so unless your home or office is damp enough to grow mold, chances are that year round you are at 50% or less humidity, not just during the winter.

The other flaw is that the researchers point out that the humidity needs to be low as in a room with "...really heated air..." so that the mucos droplets evaporates leaving the virus to float freely. That is not going to be your typical living space, because if it is hot enough to be evaporating mucus droplets in the air then it is either really hot (85 deg F or greater) or really dry, less than 25% humidity, which would mean that most people would be having nosebleeds and other problems.

So, while the research may be accurate on the zones that the virus does best in, it does not actually translate into the environments we live in and explain the outbreaks we see.

Re:Flaw in the study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42640819)

It is 70F and 17%RH indoors right now. Nosebleeds are kept at bay with a humidifier running 24/7, otherwise it would be below 10%RH. Yes, the air is REALLY dry.

low humidity (1)

Yobgod Ababua (68687) | about a year ago | (#42639963)

"...the winter in temperate climates due to artificial heating."

Is anyone else missing the lower humidity we generally have in the winter -outside- in temperate climates due to it, you know, being cold?

girlfriend from tropical country (1)

geekymachoman (1261484) | about a year ago | (#42640439)

Said to me, today actually, cuz she have a "common flu" at this moment, is that usually she gets it in "cool season". Which means from December till February/March.

Raining season or hot season, no problems. But cool season*... problems.

*= Cool .. 33 at day 22-25 at night, low humidity.

Oh really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42640605)

It really doesn't tell me why does the federal government puts out flu. Population control. We need real research into that.

Never ever touch your eyes or nose ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42640693)

Never ever touch your eyes or nose, wash your hands often and you will very likely avoid getting the flu.

By the way, the overall conditions of winter (cold weather outside, dry air inside) make people much more likely to touch their eyes and nose. Observe people in hospital even at the peak of the flu season and you will see them sooner or later touch their face while waiting.

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