Sunday, November 6, 2016

Humidity – missing component of Influenza's seasonal spread

While traditionally people look to influenza during the cold months influenza outbreaks equally affect those living in warm tropical regions where their seasonal temperature changes don’t link to increased flu cases. In a study a Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego research team found that humidity actually links flu outbreaks across the globe and that temperature mediates this effect. The team utilized empirical dynamic modeling (EDM) which was developed at Scripps and analyzed 20 years of World Health Organization’s influenza data. With this data they found a positive association between flu outbreaks and absolute humidity and temperature across all latitudes. The researchers found that above or below 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit causes humidity levels to become a key factor in promoting the spread of the virus. This research can help set the stage for public health initiatives to implement humidifiers in buildings during cold dry temperatures and dehumidifiers to dry air in buildings. While this research is in its early stages researchers are optimistic in its application as they have used a holistic-data drive approach and moved beyond laboratory controlled studies.

-Vander Harris

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