Flu is spread by breath, not just coughing and sneezing, an alarming new study warns.
The CDC warns people to wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze to avoid spreading their virus.
However, researchers at the University of Maryland say that may not be enough.
Analyzing 142 flu patients, they found an infectious virus in the air they exhaled, particularly in the first few days they showed symptoms.
Speaking of Daily Mail Online, lead author Dr. Donald Milton said he urges anyone to stay home if they have a fever, cough, and sore throat and ‘feel pretty lousy’.
‘Influenza comes on hard and fast and you are probably infectious right then,’ he said.
‘I would like people in my workplace who are coming down with the flu to please go home and not infect me.’
Based on previous studies, Dr. Milton said, the virus lingers ‘hours’ in the air.
‘Staying home could make a real difference.’
The study, released today, comes amid a fierce flu season, with more than 100 Americans and 100 Brits killed by the H3N2 strain, a notoriously aggressive type of influenza.
Dr. Milton’s study was carried out in 2012, another aggressive H3N2 year, but not as deadly as 2017/18 is shaping up to be.
They gathered 142 students who had been diagnosed with influenza and monitored them for three days after the onset of symptoms.
Each person gave nasal swaps, 218 samples of exhaled breathing, samples of coughing, and samples of sneezing.
To monitor their breathing, the researchers placed each student in a contained room to monitor their natural breathing.
They then cultured the air in the contained room.
Half of the samples had detectable viral flu in them, suggesting coughing is not the only way to spread the deadly flu.
Dr. Milton said he hopes the findings could help health officials come closer to understanding how the flu is spread, and therefore how to control it and how to produce a better vaccine against it.
H3N2 is notoriously the most aggressive strain, though it’s not clear why.
Experts believe it has a lot to do with the fact that the vaccines are less effective, and it seems to attack bodies more forcefully, causing more deaths.
This season, H3N2 is devastating 49 states with Alabama declaring a State of Emergency, Boston hospitals pumping Gatorade through stomach tubes and hospitals in Texas and Minnesota turning patients away.
This year’s outbreak is on track to becoming one of the worst flu seasons in recent history due to a deadly strand that has so far killed 85 adults and 20 children nationwide as the numbers continue to climb.
Flu season officially begins in October but this year’s particularly dangerous strain, H3N2, has come relatively early and is expected to last until May.
Health officials are urging everyone to get their flu shot and say it is not too late to protect yourself from the virus.
More strains of the virus will emerge in the next two months along with the already widespread H3N2 strain dubbed the ‘Aussie flu’ that killed hundreds in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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