How to predict flu risk…absolutely

How to predict flu risk…absolutely

Want to avoid the flu? Keep it humid.

But not just any humidity will do.

When researchers at Oregon State University reanalyzed data from an earlier study, they confirmed what scientists have known for some time now: Flu viruses thrive in dry weather.

But when it comes to humidity, ignore the relative humidity, which measures humidity in relation to temperature.

The Oregon State team found that absolute humidity was a far more accurate predictor of virus survival. Absolute humidity measures the amount of water in the air. And of course, the warm and sultry air of, say, Coral Gables, Florida, accommodates moisture much better than the frigid air of, say, Montpelier, Vermont.

It’s no surprise that your flu risk is lower in Coral Gables than it is in Montpelier during these “flu season” months, but the Oregon State results give epidemiologists a more accurate tool for predicting severity and length of the flu season.

“Grandma’s Moistening Kettle May Have Held Off Flu” Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press, 2/9/09,