Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Prince George’s County, MD, United States (4E) – The spread of influenza virus is not only limited to the exposure to aerosols of a cough or sneeze from an infected person or mere contact with surfaces contaminated by the virus. It can also spread by mere breathe of an infected person.
In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have discovered large quantities of the flu virus in the exhaled breath from a person with flu.
“We found that flu cases contaminated the air around them with the infectious virus just by breathing, without coughing or sneezing,” study lead researcher Dr. Milton, a professor of environmental health in the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, said.
“People with flu generate infectious aerosols even when they are not coughing, and especially during the first days of illness,” he explained, adding that “when someone is coming down with influenza, they should go home and remain in the workplace and infect others.” Aerosols are tiny droplets that can stay suspended in the air for a long time.
Milton and is UM team is joined by other researchers from San Jose State University, Missouri Western State University, and University of California, Berkely. The research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health.
The researchers based their finding on the analysis of captured influenza virus from the exhaled breath of 142 people suffering from flu. They also captured large quantities of the virus from the flu patients during a prompted speech, spontaneous coughing, and sneezing.
The samples studied by the researchers involved 218 nasopharyngeal swabs, and 218 samples of 30-minute exhaled breath, spontaneous coughing, and sneezing during the first three days of the infection.
Milton said they had detected viral RNA from the 11 of 23 fine aerosols captured from exhaled breath, eight of these 11 aerosols contained infectious virus. On the other hand, samples captured during sneezing showed less potential of transmitting the disease.
“The study findings suggest that keeping surfaces clean, washing our hands all the time, and avoiding people who are coughing does not provide complete protection from getting the flu,” Sheryl Ehrman at Don Beall Dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose University said.
To effectively contain the spread of flu virus, she said, it is advisable for an infected person to stay at home and avoid crowded public spaces. And having a shot of flu vaccine could greatly help both the patients and stop the spread of flu virus.
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