The H3N2 flu virus continues to spread in all U.S. states, and there is widespread concern over the influenza epidemic. A new report suggests the flu season affects thousands of people in a short span of time because the virus spreads not just through sneezing and coughing but also through breathing.
According to experts, the flu virus is not airborne. The disease spreads through droplets when someone affected by the virus sneezes or coughs. However, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America reveals that people with the flu breathe out the virus through their nose and mouth. The particles can stay suspended in the hair for hours.
Flu Transmitted Through Breathing
According to Dr. Donald Milton, one of the researchers, they found that the air around patients with the flu virus is contaminated. Someone with the flu doesn’t need to sneeze or cough for the infectious virus to spread.
“Even if you are not coughing, you can still infect other people.”
“Many people shedding virus into the air are shedding real, infectious virus.”
Dr. Milton used the Gesundheit II machine to analyze particles in the air from a person’s cough, sneeze, and breath. The findings were based on the samples collected from 178 volunteers, most of which were college students diagnosed with the flu.
#Flu viruses are moving targets, and a pandemic virus could emerge with as little warning in 2018 as in 1918. CDC scientists examine our pandemic readiness in latest @sciencemagazine: https://t.co/i2NMH4fOLq #1918Flu pic.twitter.com/OLliKsGF6l— CDC Flu (@CDCFlu) January 19, 2018
Participants sat for half an hour with their face positioned close to the device. Most of the time, participants breathed and sat. They were also asked to recite the alphabet to see is talking generates virus-laden particles.
How About Sneezing?
As for how sneezes contribute to spreading the virus, Milton’s team found something interesting. Based on their data, the flu virus was present on 76 percent of the fine aerosol particles generated through talking. Meanwhile, only 40 percent of the coarse particles generated from sneezing tested positive for the virus.
“Thus, sneezing does not appear to make an important contribution to influenza virus shedding in aerosols. Sneezing might make a contribution to surface contamination.”
The most common method for spreading the flu virus is through air droplets that can travel a distance of about six feet. As NBC News reported, these droplets can land on people’s noses and mouths and inhaled into the lungs. Touching surfaces with the flu virus on it can also transmit the disease less often, but this type of transmission is quite uncommon.
Given the circumstances, experts recommend wearing a mask especially in closed areas like an airplane. Even if the vaccine against the H3N2 flu virus is only 10 to 30 percent effective, experts still recommend getting a flu shot.