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Medicine Science

Researchers Explain Why Flu Comes In the Winter 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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Researchers Explain Why Flu Comes In the Winter

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  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @11:19AM (#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:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @11:25AM (#42639109) Journal
    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 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by UltraZelda64 ( 2309504 ) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @12:45PM (#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.

I owe the public nothing. -- J.P. Morgan