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Surprising Science

MIT Report: How to Keep from Getting the Flu

While MIT researchers were thinking up inexpensive solutions to a flu pandemic, they came upon ideas that apply equally to the seasonal flu. Stop your life from being interrupted this winter.

What’s the Latest Development?

When MIT researchers set out to find inexpensive and household methods to slow the spread of a potential flu pandemic, they were simultaneously finding ways to stop the seasonal flu. After reviewing 40 studies of the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical solutions, they recommend washing hands with soap and water for 20-30 seconds, wearing a mask if you have a virus, installing air filters, keeping temperatures and humidity levels high and installing an ultraviolet light (because UV light is antimicrobial).

What’s the Big Idea?

At the start of their research, the MIT scientists imagined an H5N1 bird flu pandemic, perhaps on the scale of the influenza epidemic that swept the globe between 1918 and 1920, killing 50 to 100 million people. Were the bird flu to mutate and become communicable between humans, vaccines might help stop its spread, but it is possible that their production would be too slow to have much effect. The hygiene methods highlighted above are sufficient for slowing the spread of influenza among members of the same household.

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