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Why Winter Is Flu Season

Armen Hareyan's picture

Researchers have uncovered the question of why flu mainly strikes in winter.

A team of scientists from US National Institutes of Health examined flu virus and found out that it wears a fatty 'coat' during wintertime, which protects the virus from cold. When it gets to warmer places, such as respiratory tract, the coat melts and virus starts infecting cells and spreading flu.

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Protective coat makes it safe for a virus to move from a person to person and infect multiple people, but if the coating melts outside of a human body, the virus will die.

Virus's outer membrane consists of lipid molecules, such as oils, fats and cholesterol. At temperatures just a little above 0C membrane turns into a gel-like mass. At temperatures of 15.6C (60F) and above membrane completely melts and turns into a soupy mass. This is when virus 'gets alive' and starts infecting.

According to research, spring and summer temperatures are too high for membrane to turn into gel, this is why some viruses become very weak during hot seasons.

if confirmed, the research will allow scientists to look for new ways of flu treatment. However, the research didn't mention the viruses that are widespread in tropical areas with temperatures at 35C (95F). More research needs to be done to separate cold and hot weather viruses and develop proper treatments.