The NASA study notes that each state has its own climatic threshold for flu outbreaks


NASA satellite data has revealed a critical link between low humidity and the flu outbreak in the US, researchers say.

In a new study published in the journal GeoHealth, scientist by the University of Southern California and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, correlated measurements of water vapor in the lower atmosphere by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite with estimates of influenza cases for each week from 2003 through 2015 in the 48 contiguous US states.

It also used historical estimates of influenza case numbers to examine this correlation.

The authors found that every state has a certain level of low humidity that could signal when a flu outbreak is imminent.

If the threshold is exceeded, a sharp increase in influenza cases follows within an average of two to three weeks.

According to a NASA releasehumidity thresholds “match” each state’s average climate, with those in the Southeast having higher thresholds than the arid states of the West or Southwest.

“We found that the humidity levels that appeared to indicate the onset of seasonal influenza varied by state, and that in states with higher average annual humidity, the humidity level that ‘signaled’ the seasonal onset was also higher,” they wrote authors. “We also found that our results show regional patterns.”

They said the work could improve understanding across the country both of how humidity affects influenza virus transmission and how humidity can be used in models aimed at predicting seasonal outbreaks.

However, the study was not designed to answer why lower humidity levels lead to flu outbreaks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs.

The flu infects millions of people in the US each year and a 2018 agency learn suggest that an average of about 8% of the US population gets the flu each season. The NASA study notes that each state has its own climatic threshold for flu outbreaks


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