ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Childhood Dairy Intake Boosts Bone Health Later On
New Clues to How Fish Oils Help Arthritis Patients
'Snowbirds' Beware the Climate Changes
CANCER
Multiple Screening Strategy Boosts Cervical Cancer Detection
Well Water Might Raise Bladder Cancer Risk
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
CAREGIVING
Baby's Sleep Position May Not Affect Severity of Head Flattening
Caregiving May Lengthen Life
Depression, PTSD Common Among Lung Transplant Patient Caregivers
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
DIABETES
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
DIET, NUTRITION
Antioxidants Abound in Cereals, Popcorn, Whole-Grain Snacks
Atkins Diet Tougher on Heart After Weight Loss
Fatty Acid in Olive Oil Wards Off Hunger
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Chemical in Plastics May Cause Fertility Problems
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Bed Bugs Bring No Disease Danger
EYE CARE, VISION
Glaucoma Associated With Reading Impairments in Elderly
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
Music Can Help Restore Stroke Patients' Sight
FITNESS
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
GENERAL HEALTH
Workplace Wellness Seems to Really Work
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk
Coffee Is Generally Heart-Friendly
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Love Hormone May Ease Discussion of Painful Topics
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
The Unmedicated Mind
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
SENIORS
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps
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Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks

Rain and snow may seem like perfect incubators for the flu, but new research suggests that low humidity and unusually dry skies might be responsible for increases in influenza, such as those that occur during winter months.

Previous research has suggested that humidity is connected to seasonal epidemics of flu, but studies have usually focused on relative humidity, as opposed to absolute humidity. Relative humidity, which varies with temperature, is the ratio of water vapor content in the air to the saturating level. Absolute humidity, which is the actual level of water in the air, does not depend on temperature, but often reaches lower levels in the winter than in the summer.

"In some areas of the country, a typical summer day can have four times as much water vapor as a typical winter day -- a difference that exists both indoors and outdoors," Jeffrey Shaman, an Oregon State University atmospheric scientist and lead author of the new study, said in a news release from the Public Library of Science.

Shaman and his colleagues created a mathematical model of influenza and plugged 31 years of absolute humidity data into it. They found that influenza outbreaks in the winter often happened right after a period of unusually dry weather, according to their report published online Feb. 22 in PLoS Biology.

"This dry period is not a requirement for triggering an influenza outbreak, but it was present in 55 to 60 percent of the outbreaks we analyzed so it appears to increase the likelihood of an outbreak," Shaman said. "The virus response is almost immediate; transmission and survival rates increase and about 10 days later, the observed influenza mortality rates follow."

Irene Eckstrand, of the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences program, explained in the news release: "The discovery of a link between influenza outbreaks and absolute humidity could have a major impact on the development of strategies for limiting the spread of infection. Understanding why outbreaks arise is an important first step toward containing or even preventing them, so it is essential for scientists to follow-up on this intriguing connection."

SOURCES: Public Library of Science, news release, Feb. 22, 2010 Published on: February 23, 2010