Study shows flu travels through air

A new University of Maryland study offers more evidence that people catch flu through airborne particles, not only direct or indirect person-to-person contact with those infected.

The study, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens and performed by the University of Maryland School of Public Health, also found that surgical masks significantly reduce the spread of even the smallest virus particles when worn by flu patients, according to BaltimoreSun.com.

"Our study provides new evidence that there is nearly nine times more influenza virus present in the smallest airborne droplets in the breath exhaled from those infected with flu than in the larger droplets that would be expected to carry more virus," Dr. Donald Milton, lead author of the study, said, BaltimoreSun.com reports. "This has important implications for how we prevent the spread of flu."

Milton also noted that understanding how the flu is spread could potentially aid in treatment. The study reports that of the 38 flu patients analyzed, each expelled an undetectable amount up to 100,000 particles every 30 minutes.

Researchers from Harvard University, the Boston University Schools of Public Health, and the University of Hong Kong participated in the research, according to BaltimoreSun.com.

The flu is generally spread through contact from a droplet in a cough or sneeze, direct or indirect contact with an infected person, or the inhalation of fine particles released by breathing.