Flu outbreaks linked to weather
7 Healthcast: Flu outbreaks linked to weather
A new study at Oregon State University ties flu outbreaks directly to the weather.
"We found that absolute humidity, which is the amount of water vapor in the air in the environment, seems to be strongly connected with the seasonality of influenza,” said Professor Jeffrey Shaman of Oregon State University.
Studying 30 plus years of data, researchers found the majority of flu outbreaks happened soon after a cold front moved through the area, leaving behind unusually cold, dry air.
"If we have a cold front come through, and we get some of those blue skies and cold temperatures and low humidifies in the winter that might be the conditions, you may see an outbreak if one hasn't taken place already,” said Shaman.
Shaman says being able to forecast a potential flu outbreak could greatly minimize its impact.
For example, we could better time our vaccinations.
"All sorts of intervention methods could be better allocated and resources better planned if you have a stronger sense of how these things manifest and why and when they're going to crop up,” he said.
Shaman adds this research could lead to some necessary changes.
"We manage the temperatures in our indoor environments, so it might be time to start really thinking about managing the humidity levels in indoor environments, particularly in places like hospital wards,” he said.
Shaman says his research will also help in fighting other health problems like pneumonia, heart attacks or stroke. These problems are sometimes linked to the flu.
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