CORVALLIS, Ore. -- We turn to our meteorologists to forecast the weather. But could we soon by relying on them to forecast the flu?
A new study by Oregon State University Assistant Professor Jeffrey Shaman ties flu outbreaks directly to the weather.
"We found that absolute humidity, which is the amount of water vapor in the air in the environment, seems to be strongly connected with the seasonality of influenza," said Shaman who teaches in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.
Studying 30 plus years of data Shaman found a high percentage of flu outbreaks happened soon after a cold front moved through the area leaving behind unusually cold, dry air.
"So if we have a cold front come through and we get some of those blue skies cold temps and low humidity in the winter, that might be the conditions you may see an outbreak if you haven’t seen one already," said Shaman.
Shaman says being able to forecast a potential flu outbreak could greatly minimize its impact. For example, we could better time our vaccinations.
"All sorts of intervention methods could be better allocated and resources better planned if you have a stronger sense of how these things manifest and how and why they are going to crop up," said Shaman.
He says this research could lead to some necessary changes.
"We manage the temperatures in the indoor environment. It might be times to start thinking about managing humidity levels in indoor environment part in places like hospital wards," said Shaman.
Shaman says his research will also help in fighting other health problems like pneumonia, heart attacks or stroke, problems that are sometimes brought on by the flu. But, he admits, more research needs to be done before you'll find that flu-forecast with the 7-Day.