Flu in the air

Germs tiny enough to pass through surgical masks may cause half of all cases

By Stephen Ornes, 13:22 PM June 13, 2013

This illustration shows a flu virus as if it were cut in half. The outside is made of protein. The inside contains genetic material. A new study suggests tiny, long-lasting airborne particles that contain this germ cause at least half of all flu cases. Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

It’s easy to catch the flu. Just breathe.

Tiny, germ-laden particles in the air may cause half or more of all cases of the respiratory infection. And that is a surprise, scientists now report. Until now, researchers thought large particles — the type that can’t stay airborne long after being expelled by a cough or sneeze — spread most cases of influenza.

Tiny particles that can float in the air for hours to days are known as aerosols. Researchers knew that germy aerosols might spread flu...

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