Doctors are examining how the flu can be transmitted
So far, most people have surely thought that they were infected with the flu after being exposed to the cough or sneezing of an infected person or after touching a contaminated surface. However, researchers have now found that the flu can also be passed on to other people through normal breathing.
Scientists at San Jose State University, UC Berkeley, and the University of Maryland found in their research that flu can be transmitted to other people through normal breathing. The experts published the results of their study in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences".
People with flu have large amounts of infectious viruses in their breath
The work of the medical team provides new evidence of the importance of the airborne particles of the flu. So the flu can easily be spread to other people. The scientists discovered large amounts of infectious viruses in the breath that were exhaled by the sick people. The results of the study suggest that cleaning surfaces, washing hands, and avoiding coughing fits don't offer complete protection against flu, explains author Sheryl Ehrman of San Jose State University. However, if sick people stay at home and do not move in public, this can inhibit the spread of the influenza virus, the expert adds.
Examination included 178 subjects
The study was conducted during the flu season from December 2012 to March 2013. 178 volunteers were recruited for the study. These were mostly students with flu symptoms. During the period of the study, researchers identified and characterized the flu virus in 142 volunteers with confirmed cases of the flu while breathing, talking, coughing, or sneezing.
How did the study go?
The doctors then assessed the severity of naturally occurring flu aerosols. These tiny droplets hover in the air for a long time. The participants in the study swabbed 218 samples from their nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat, which lies directly behind the nose. They also delivered 218 samples of exhaled air, spontaneous coughing, and sneezing on the first, second, and third days after the onset of flu symptoms, which were taken over a 30-minute period, the researchers explain.
Flu patients transmit the virus via the air
Analysis of the infectious virus obtained from these samples showed that a significant number of flu patients routinely release an infectious virus in tiny aerosol particles that can be airborne. Surprisingly, the study suggested that coughing or sneezing was not necessary to cause infection, doctors say.
Sick people should not leave the house
People suffering from flu contaminate the air around them with the infectious virus. This happens through breathing, without the appearance of coughing or sneezing, says author Professor Dr. Donald Milton from the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland. People with the flu produce infectious aerosols even when they don't cough - especially during the first days of illness. If people get the flu, they should stay at home and not go to work and infect other people there, the expert advises.
Results could reduce the impact of influenza epidemics
The researchers believe that the results of their study could be used to improve mathematical models of the risk of airborne flu transmission from people with flu symptoms. This could help to better control and thereby reduce the effects of influenza epidemics and pandemics
Certain measures offer protection against the flu
Ventilation systems could also be improved, for example to reduce the risk of transmission in offices, classrooms, and subway cars, the study authors explain. Although a flu vaccine does not guarantee that people will not be infected with the flu, such a vaccine can also provide some protection and reduce the likelihood of people getting the flu, the experts said. (as)