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Study: Flu Virus Easily Spreads Through Coughs, Sneezes

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A new study finds that nearly half the transmissions of influenza A from person-to-person are the result of infectious droplets attaching themselves to coughs and sneezes. (Photo credit - JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A new study finds that nearly half the transmissions of influenza A from person-to-person are the result of infectious droplets attaching themselves to coughs and sneezes. (Photo credit – JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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Atlanta (CBS ATLANTA) – A new study finds that nearly half the transmissions of influenza A from person-to-person are the result of infectious droplets attaching themselves to coughs and sneezes.

According to the new study published this month in the science journal Nature Communications, the flu virus hitches a ride in these droplets, and may infect nearby, susceptible people who breathe-in the droplets.

Influenza A viruses are believed to spread between humans through contact, large respiratory droplets and small particle droplet nuclei (aerosols), but the relative importance of each of these modes of transmission is unclear.

The virus commonly causes fever, coughing, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur, but are more common in children.3 Fever and most other clinical signs usually resolve within 5 to 7 days, but coughing may last two weeks or more.

This most recent study uses a mathematical model to evaluate the effectiveness of hand hygiene and facemasks in order to reduce the transmission of influenza A viruses from person-to-person. The study shows that aerosols are an important route of transmission of the virus, and may account for as much as 50 percent of the spread of the flu.

Outbreaks of influenza are season and quite common in the United States. Average outbreaks have been found to affect 5 to 20 percent of people in a given community, with half of people in places like schools and nursing homes being afflicted with the virus.

According to their website, Nature Communications is an online-only, multidisciplinary journal dedicated to publishing high-quality research in all areas of the biological, physical and chemical sciences.

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