John Noti and colleagues from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published new research that proves that higher indoor humidity can significantly reduce the infectivity of influenza virus particles released by coughing in the open excess peer reviewed journal Public Library of Science on Feb. 27, 2013.
The researchers found that 70 to 77 percent of airborne flu virus particles retained their infectious capacity an hour after being released by a cough or sneeze at a humidity of 23 percent. At a humidity of 40 percent only 14 percent of the flu virus remained infectious. The infectivity of influenza virus particles at higher humidity lasted only 15 minutes.
The practical applications of this research could substantially reduce regular flu outbreaks and the next pandemic flu.
Flu could be controlled by keeping aircraft humidity at 40 percent and thus prevent the spread of flu. One cough or sneeze from an infected individual could infect 200 to 600 people in the close confines of an airplane.
Doctor’s offices and waiting rooms as well as hospitals could maintain a higher humidity and prevent the spread of flu.
While the cost of maintaining a higher humidity may increase the costs of air travel and physician’s visits, the cost savings produced by lower incidences of flu could mean direct health care savings to the average person as well as adding a substantial benefit to the elderly who were not as well protected by the 2012 to 2013 flu vaccine as they were expected to be.
Citation: Noti JD, Blachere FM, McMillen CM, Lindsley WG, Kashon ML, et al. (2013) High Humidity Leads to Loss of Infectious Influenza Virus from Simulated Coughs. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57485. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057485