Contracting the flu may have to do with weather

Although it didn’t feel like it Wednesday, we are approaching the cooler months. And as we head into fall, you might want to keep a sharp eye on the autumn temperatures. McMaster researchers have found a link between the weather and the arrival of flu season. Maria Hayes reports.

For the most part, it’s been a cooler summer. Not a lot of scorching temperatures and humidity. If that pattern continues into fall, it could mean more than donning a coat with your sweater. We may have to tackle an earlier than normal flu season.

McMaster researcher David Earn has been part of a study looking at seasonal flu outbreaks from the last 13 years: “There’s a correlation between low temperature, low humidity in the early fall and early emergence of influenza.”

They identified the weather pattern and it’s impact on the virus. Although, how the two are linked is still uncertain.

“It’s not that well understood. What our work has shown regardless of what the true biological mechanism is there is a correlation between low humidity and early emergence of influenza. And that’s the practical thing that really matters.”

It’s information that earn says could play a role in the timing and promotion of vaccination programs.

“Of course, it’s always a good idea to have an earlier flu vaccination. But if we know there’s been lower temperature and humidity, then it’s more likely that getting the vaccine earlier is going to be of great benefit.”

Another interesting pattern is that, on average, influenza tends to appear first in Western Canada. As time goes on, it begins to spread or migrate to the east.



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