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People Can Emit Flu Germs in Air Up to 6 Feet Away, Study Finds
Date:1/31/2013

having the worst flu-like symptoms. These patients also had the highest viral loads in their collected samples.

Most of the flu virus found in the air samples was contained in small particles up to six feet away from the infected patients. Although concentrations of the virus decreased with distance, the researchers noted that at this range health care providers may still be exposed to infectious dosages of the flu.

Bischoff and colleagues also said that some patients were what they called "super emitters," and gave off up to 32 times more virus than the other patients. These people, they concluded, may be more likely to pass the flu on to others.

Dr. Caroline Breese Hall, from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y., pointed out in an accompanying journal editorial that the findings "question the traditional belief that influenza is primarily spread by close contact with an infected person or by direct contact with infectious secretions."

And Dr. William Schaffner, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, also commented on the study. "Influenza vaccination, although not perfect, is the best tool we have to protect health care workers -- and their patients -- from influenza illness," he said in the news release. Schaffner was not involved with the study.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about the flu.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Wake Forest School of Medicine, news release, Jan. 31, 2013


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