Breeze-Courier | Taylorville, IL
weather sponsored by
Hickory Estates of Taylorville

The Weather Network
Advanced Search
search sponsored by


LOGIN | SUBSCRIBE






home : columns : dear harriette November 21, 2018

3/24/2018 10:08:00 AM
Studies show that flu virus can be spread by just breathing

DEAR DOCTOR: How does the flu virus spread? I've always thought it was mostly from coughing, which contaminates the air and the surfaces we touch. But now I've heard that people who are sick actually breathe the virus out. Should I be wearing a mask to protect myself?  

DEAR READER: One of the more challenging points to get across regarding the flu has been just how contagious a sufferer is, and how early into a bout of the illness that contagion begins. Now comes research that makes understanding (and acting on) this information all the more crucial. 

You're correct that the assumption has been that it's by coughing that we pump aerosolized droplets of moisture, which contain the flu virus, into the air and onto the surfaces around us. We've known for some time that these droplets can hang in the air for up to several hours and can live on hard surfaces for several days. But the results of a recently published study by scientists at the University of Maryland's School of Public Health show that by simply breathing, a person who is sick with the flu is exhaling the virus. 

The researchers examined the mechanics of how 142 university students with confirmed cases of influenza sent the virus into the air around them. The participants in the study sat in front of a device that could measure various sizes of the aerosolized droplets they dispersed while coughing, sneezing, talking or breathing. In 218 sessions that lasted 30 minutes each, it was revealed that close to half of the airborne droplets that contained the flu virus were collected in the absence of coughing. Since the participants rarely sneezed, the takeaway was that people with an active infection are dispersing the virus into the air around them when they breathe.  

An earlier study from the University of Hong Kong concluded that half of flu infections within households are passed along via aerosolized droplets. The study also looked into your question of whether wearing a surgical mask would prevent infection. The answer echoes the findings of several similar studies -- basically, no. Though masks may slightly reduce risk by screening out the largest droplets, they are not effective against the fine aerosolized mist from the breath. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the people who really should be wearing facial masks are individuals who are ill.  

It's important to note that the University of Maryland study did not tackle the specific question of how the flu is transmitted. Still, the findings do suggest that, even in the absence of coughing, people with the flu can send the virus into the environment around them.  

All of which leads to advice that physicians have been giving -- and which patients have been ignoring -- for generations. And for emphasis, we're putting it into a paragraph of its own: 

Stay home when you're sick.  

Not only do you really and truly need to rest in order to give your body the best shot at recovering from influenza, but venturing forth while you're actively ill puts everyone around you at risk. 

(Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and primary care physician at UCLA Health.) 

Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.







Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

If you are looking for the SPEAK OUT submission form, you can find it by clicking here: Speak Out Form


Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

NOTE: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address will not be displayed or shared.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Required
Last Name:
Required
Telephone:
Required
Email:
Required
Comment:
Required
Passcode:
Required
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.
   












Dr Paul The Dentist
Trinity Dodge Fixed
NewsWebPagesOpinionPeopleObituariesAg & BusinessSportsContact UsLife
Subscriptions | Username & Password Reminder | Change Password | Life

Breeze-Courier & Printing | 212 S Main St. Taylorville, IL 62568 | (217) 824-2233 |
website@breezecourier.com

© Copyright 2014 Breeze-Courier & Printing. All Rights Reserved.
Original content may not be reprinted or distributed without the written permission of Breeze-Courier & Printing.

Software © 1998-2018 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved