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Flu Season

September 18, 2007

A listener asks: Why does the flu strike mostly in the wintertime?


Why the flu is seasonal. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Well, summer’s starting to wind down and that means cold and flu season is just around the corner. Listener Nicolas Heluani wrote to ask why the flu strikes mainly in the wintertime. We turned to virologist Doris Bucher, of New York Medical College.

DORIS BUCHER (New York Medical College):
We’re still trying to understand why flu has a seasonality to it, why it does show up in the winter. In bad weather, people crowd indoors…and this is an airborne virus…so if you’re indoors, you have a much greater chance of passing this virus on to the next person.

She adds that the virus mutates rapidly, so our immune systems are unprepared for the new strains that come along each year. If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-whyisit. If we use your question, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.