Logo for Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien
February 12, 2018

More than fifty U.S. children have died this year from the flu and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that rates of flu-like illnesses haven't been this high since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

On Matter of Fact with Soledad O'Brien this weekend, Professor of Environmental Health Don Milton explained his research on influenza transmission recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

Dr. Milton explained the study's findings and said the team found people with the flu didn't have to cough or sneeze to spread the virus — It can be transmitted by breathing. 

"The big surprise was that people, even without coughing, were still shedding virus into the air," Dr. Milton said. "And I think it was pretty surprising how little sneezing we saw — Eleven sneezes in  218 half-hour observations. So sneezing is not that big a deal in flu." 

Dr. Milton's ongoing study C.A.T.C.H. (Characterizing And Tracking College Health) the Virus, is testing University of Maryland students who become sick, along with their close contacts, to explore what makes people infected with influenza and other respiratory viruses contagious. The goal is to develop strategies to better prevent the spread of disease.

O'Brien also interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, who has visited Dr. Milton's Gesundheit II laboratory and who gave the keynote address at the Public Health Research @ Maryland 2017 conference. 

Dr. Fauci told O'Brien that the information learned from Dr. Milton's study is worrisome because someone could become infected with flu more easily than previously thought. He also addressed the challenges of vaccine development, including the effort to create a universal flu vaccine that protects against all strains, including the H3N2 virus which has caused this year's flu season to be so brutal. He also provided tips on how you can avoid the flu, including getting vaccinated, staying away from enclosed spaces with lots of people, and washing hands frequently.

"Even a modest degree of protection is better than no protection at all," Dr. Fauci said of the flu vaccine. 





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Dr. Fauci: A Universal Flu Vaccine is Possible

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Donald Milton