New study: Flu virus can be spread through breathing, talking

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - It has been an intense flu season and now we know the flu may not just be spread by coughing and sneezing--it can also spread just by breathing or talking.

The old belief was you caught the flu if you were exposed to droplets from coughing or sneezing, and by touching contaminated surfaces.

A new study from the University of Maryland reveals that we may pass the flu to others just by breathing.

"And they got together a bunch of college students and looked at coughing, sneezing and breathing to see how much virus was transmitted and it turns out breathing transmitted a lot of virus," St. Vincent Infectious Disease Director Dr. Christopher Belcher said.

Belcher says this is a game-changer for how the virus is spread and how many people get sick.

"But aerosols can be in the air for minutes. Many, many minutes which lets them travel down the hallway and into doorways and spread very easily whereas the coughing, sneezing droplets are generally three to six feet and fall immediately."

With limited sick days at work and not wanting children to miss too much school, many people are out and about while they're contagious.

Belcher says surgical masks are being distributed in hospitals to help stop the spread of the invisible virus.

"I think it helps people reinforce their good behaviors. Again, coughing is a big one. Cover your cough. Cough into your sleeve. But this breathing, you have to breathe and so the big message there is don't go out if you're sick. Stay at home, take care of yourself, and don't infect new people," Belcher said.

People with underlying illnesses and children are more likely to spread the flu. Typically another wave of flu hits in the spring, so doctors say it’s still time to get your flu shot.

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