Flu season is just around the corner. As winter approaches, the cold forces us into the warmth of our homes, where interactions with our fellow humans are magnified by increased close contact.
These conditions are ideal for the spread of the influenza virus, which is mainly spread by sneezes. A tear-inducing, room-resonating sneeze is a viral ejection of massive proportions. It starts with a tickling feeling in the nose, grows with each vain attempt at repression of the inevitable, and ends with the violent expulsion of as many as 40,000 projectiles traveling up to 200 miles an hour. Each droplet expelled into the room can contain as many as 100 million flu viruses. The virus-laden water bombs are also released in much less dramatic fashion when someone with the flu talks or coughs. After expulsion from the infected body, the larger droplets fall to ground, while the smaller ones can remain airborne for days. Most flu viruses are spread when these droplets directly enter someone's mouth or nose. It is a common misconception that flu infections come from touching doorknobs, handrails, etc. -- infection from droplets that have landed on a surface is fairly rare.