Flu virus spread by breathing, study finds


Most people believe that the influenza virus is spread through the coughs and sneezes of infected people, but new research published Thursday suggests that the flu virus is spread more easily than previously thought.

>> Read more trending news

Medical professionals believe that the virus is spread most often by “droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But researchers studying how the virus spreads recently found large amounts of the virus in the breath of people suffering from the flu, according to the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.

>> Related: Influenza surveillance map: Where is the flu in my state? 

The researchers -- from the University of Maryland, San Jose State University, Missouri Western State University and the University of California, Berkeley -- published their findings Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We found that flu cases contaminated the air around them with infectious virus just by breathing, without coughing or sneezing,” said Donald Milton, professor of environmental health in the University of Maryland School of Public Health and lead researcher for the study.

Milton and his team examined the virus content in the breath of 142 people who were diagnosed with flu as they were breathing normally, speaking, coughing and sneezing. Researchers found that a majority of those who participated in the study had enough of the infectious virus in just their regular, exhaled breath to possibly infect another person.

A review of the data collected from the coughs and sneezes of infected participants showed that neither action appeared to have a large impact on whether or not the virus was spread.

>> Related: 11 things parents need to know about the flu, the vaccine, how long kids need to stay out of school  

“People with flu generate infectious aerosols (tiny droplets that stay suspended in the air for a long time), even when they are not coughing and especially during the first days of illness,” Milton said.

The study’s authors said the results highlighted how necessary it is for people who have the flu to stay at home.

>> Related: What is the H3N2 flu and how bad is flu season this year? 

“The study findings suggest that keeping surfaces clean, washing our hands all the time, and avoiding people who are coughing does not provide complete protection from getting the flu,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose State University. “Staying home and out of public spaces could make a difference in the spread of the influenza virus.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Health

How you can help Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill earn national bragging rights
How you can help Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill earn national bragging rights

For more than 30 years, Clifton Mill has been a glowing example of what the holiday season is about in Southwest Ohio.  The official Ohio.org website published its Ohio Holiday Lights Trail list, and Clifton Mill was near the top of most spectacular light shows in the state. The recognition comes just in time, as Clifton Mill is in the running...
The best Amazon Black Friday deals of 2018
The best Amazon Black Friday deals of 2018

Not a fan of the chaos that inevitably comes with in-person Black Friday shopping? » RELATED: Amazon offers free shipping for all during 2018 holiday season If you’d rather get in on the fun from the comfort of your couch or bed, e-commerce giant Amazon has plenty of deals for its customers just in time for the holidays....
Debate settled: This is the right time to put up your Christmas tree
Debate settled: This is the right time to put up your Christmas tree

While it may never reach the level of controversy of how to hang the toilet paper roll or which way to load the dishwasher, the right time to put up the Christmas tree is a heavily-debated household topic. There are answers to this question that depend on everything from Prince Albert to the opinion of tree growers to something called Adelaide...
Teddy enters the football prediction game
Teddy enters the football prediction game

Saturday, Nov. 24, is an important day for Ohio State students, alumni and fans. It’s the OSU-Michigan game, the latest installment in a football rivalry that started in 1897 with Michigan winning 34-0. “The Game,” as it is known, this year will be played at the Horseshoe in Columbus. My family will probably watch, but as Ohio University...
The best stores for discounted Black Friday shopping 
The best stores for discounted Black Friday shopping 

When it comes to major discounts and killer deals, some retailers fare better than others. » RELATED: All the Black Friday deals to catch in 2018 Luckily, analysts over at personal finance website WalletHub did some of the work for shoppers as they prepare for the hectic post-Thanksgiving holiday. After surveying nearly 7,000 deals...
More Stories