Scientists Probe the Mysteries of Flu Season

December 30, 2007 12:02 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A recent study finds that the flu virus flourishes in cold temperatures, a conclusion that emphasizes the need for effective seasonal precautions.

30-Second Summary

Researchers in New York found that influenza viruses function best in colder temperatures, such as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and are neutralized when temperatures reach the high 80s.

For years, researchers have posited theories about why winter brings on the flu season. Jonathan McCullers, a flu researcher at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, who was not one of the study’s authors, spoke to The New York Times about one probable cause.

“We know one of the largest factors is kids in school—most of the major epidemics are traced to children,” McCullers said in a Dec. 5 article. “But that still does not explain wintertime. We don’t see flu in September and October.”

Influenza is caused by a number of viral strains that circle the globe each year. The illness is mostly an annoyance for healthy adults, but can be deadly to certain groups, such as the very old, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems.

More than 30,000 Americans die from flu each year, and another 200,000 end up in the hospital because of complications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu shots and frequent hand-washing are among the keys to staying healthy.

Headlines: ‘Study Shows Why the Flu Likes Winter’

Reference Material: The flu, differences between colds and the flu, remedies, and when to stay home

Related Link: Bird flu vaccine and chicken soup


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