Friday, December 7, 2007

It's Flu Season - Why in Winter?


The New York Times ran a great article about a study that answers an age old question. Why does the flu (influenza) season always happen in the winter? We seldom see flu in Summer or even the Fall. In the tropics flu doesn't even exist.

There have been hypothesis that it was from overcrowding in schools and homes, or in the winter people are stuck inside and can pass the germs. But people are crowded in the Summer too and travel on vacations in planes and we don't see influenza.

A clever researcher, Dr. Palese from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York conducted studies on guinea pigs and found that the flu virus thrives and is passed through the air at low temperatures. At 41˚the animals passed the virus more readily and longer than at 68˚. The virus was passed at low humidity but not at all at 80% humidity.

Since you really can't do anything about the weather, the best way to prevent flu is to get a flu shot or move to the tropics. Mom was almost right when she said "Put on that coat and gloves or you'll catch your death". It is amazing that it took this long to get some scientific evidence about a virus that is so common.

9 comments:

Rich said...

I had the flu two years ago and it was nasty business. So now I make sure to get my shot -in fact I'm first in line with my sleeve rolled up.

wilfriedsoddemann said...

H5N1 avian flu: Spread by drinking water into small clusters:
Human to human and contact transmission of influenza occur - but are overvalued immense. In the course of Influenza epidemics in Germany recognized clusters are rarely (9% of the cases in the season 2005).
In temperate climates the lethal H5N1 avian flu virus will be transferred to humans strong seasonal in the cold via cold drinking water, as with the birds feb/mar 2006.
Recent research must worry: So far the virus had to reach the bronchi and the lungs in order to infect humans. Now it infects the upper respiratory system (mucous membranes of the throat e.g. when drinking and mucous membranes of the nose and probably also the conjunctiva of the eyes as well as the eardrum e.g. at showering). In a few cases (Viet Nam, Thailand) stomach and intestine by the H5N1 virus were stricken but not the bronchi and the lungs. The virus might been orally taken up, e.g. when drinking contaminated water.
The performance to eliminate viruses of the drinking water processing plants in Germany regularly does not meet the requirements of the WHO and the USA/USEPA. Conventional disinfection procedures are poor, because microorganisms in the water are not in suspension, but embedded in particles. Even ground water used for drinking water is not free from viruses.
In temperate climates the strong seasonal waterborne infections like norovirus, rotavirus, salmonellae, campylobacter and - differing from the usual dogma - influenza are mainly triggered by drinking water dependent on the drinking water temperature (in Germany minimum feb/mar – maximum august). There is no evidence that influenza primary is transmitted by saliva droplets. In temperate climates the strong interdependence between influenza infections and environmental temperatures can’t be explained with the primary biotic transmission by saliva droplets from human to human with temperatures of 37.5°C. There must be an abiotic vehicle like cold drinking water. There is no other appropriate abiotic vehicle. In Germany about 98% of inhabitants have a central public water supply with older and better protected water. Therefore in Germany cold water is decisive to virulence of viruses.
In hot climates/tropics the flood-related influenza is typical after extreme weather and natural after floods. Virulence of Influenza virus depends on temperature and time. If young and fresh H5N1 contaminated water from low local wells, cisterns, tanks, rain barrels or rice fields is used for water supply water temperature for infection may be higher as in temperate climates.

Dipl.-Ing. Wilfried Soddemann
eMail soddemann-aachen@t-online.de
http://www.dugi-ev.de/information.html
Epidemiologische Analyse: http://www.dugi-ev.de/TW_INFEKTIONEN_H5N1_20071019.pdf

Toni Brayer MD said...

Thanks for the information, wilfriedsoddemann. I am not sure I understood it all but it seems to support the "cold" theory, including cold waer.

Anonymous said...

are you sure this is true? because there is another theory that is more accurate

FloridaHerbHouse.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FloridaHerbHouse.com said...

Try some elderberries in a health drink 1-2 times per day (1 tablespoon) and time you start feeling flulike symptoms.. It really works wonders!

Florida Herb House

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norovirus said...

Moms are always right!

Yevette Behnke said...

“Since you really can't do anything about the weather, the best way to prevent flu is to get a flu shot or move to the tropics.” - True! Although when the influenza becomes a pandemic like the infamous 2009 H1N1, even those who live in the tropics were affected. The best precaution is to get yourself a flu shot to help boost your immune system. Yevette @ US Health Works