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University of Maryland study: Simply breathing can spread flu virus

The University of Maryland School of Public Health hopes the study will be used to help reduce the risk of flu transmission in public place. (ABC7)

The University of Maryland recently published results of a study that found the flu virus spreads even easier than previously thought.

That’s not good news in the midst of this year’s bad flu season, but the School of Public Health hopes the study will be used to help reduce the risk of flu transmission in public places.

Although it's probably long been said to cover your mouth when you cough, the study results published in January show that’s not enough – because even breathing can spread the flu.

“Most people were thinking it was mostly to do with coughing, sneezing, or direct touching,” said Dr. Barbara Albert with the UMD School of Public Health. “In fact, we found in our studies that most people with influenza don’t sneeze very much.”

RELATED: First flu-related pediatric death of the season reported in Maryland

And although coughing and touching can spread the flu, it can also be spread in the air.

“The best thing is to stay home and not be in contact with other people,” said Dr. Somayeh Youssefi, a UMD post-doctoral researcher. “Because even breathing, normal breathing – without coughing or sneezing – is a hazard.”

The study was done using a machine that people believed to be infected with the flu breathed into. The machine captured their breath, which was later analyzed.

The UMD School of Public Health has now begun another study involving the flu – this one looking at how and why the flu and three other viruses are transmitted.

Some people are more infectious than others when they get the flu, and researchers want to know why. They say they’re looking at everything from bloodwork to ventilation in buildings.

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