Flu season is upon us, and this viral infection is running rampant across the United States. However, researchers are realizing that the flu is far more contagious than anyone previously thought.
According to a research study done by the University of Maryland, simply breathing in and out – even without coughing or wheezing – is enough to spread the virus.
According to senior author and University of Maryland professor Donald K. Milton:
“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.”
This conclusion provides a sharp contrast to researchers’ previous beliefs that the flu virus only spreads through the coughs and wheezes of those sick with the virus (or through touching surfaces containing flu contamination).
The researchers came to these findings through a study, where they took samples from 142 individuals with influenza during the first three days of symptoms. These samples were of the participants’ breath during exhalation, as well as swabs of the nose and throat.
Out of all the viable samples, half of them were shown to contain viral RNA, as well as a considerable amount of samples with infectious viruses. The researchers came to the conclusion that exhaling is a significant contributor to the sharing of the flu virus.
This information is important, as it may help improve public health initiatives, and lower the rate of yearly epidemics and pandemics.