How do indoor humidity levels affect the spread of the flu? See what this Mayo Clinic classroom study found

by Brianna Crandall — June 18, 2018 — DRI-STEEM Corporation (DriSteem), along with Jennifer Reiman, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic, working in collaboration with Integrated Science Education Outreach (InSciEd Out), recently released the findings from a pilot study investigating how indoor humidity levels affect transmission of respiratory viruses in a classroom setting. Although focused on education facilities, the findings seem applicable to other types of facilities as well.

Reducing the spread of these viruses is especially important for students at K-12 schools because research has shown that missing just 10 percent of school days in a year for any reason predicts low student achievement, points out DriSteem. When viruses spread among students, teachers also tend to get ill and have to take sick days. Having to rely on substitute teachers too often can negatively affect lesson plans and increase costs. In addition, school budgets are based on average daily attendance, so a higher absenteeism rate can equate to less funding, meaning that schools have less money to pay for essential classroom needs.

Of course, similar issues plague other institutional and commercial facilities as well as the bottom line when a virus is making the rounds among the workforce.

In this study, two classrooms were humidified with steam humidifiers donated by DriSteem, while two identical classrooms were not humidified. Air and surface samples were collected from all four classrooms for analysis in the Mayo Clinic lab.

It was found that steam humidification resulted in a significant reduction in the total number of influenza-positive samples in the air and on surfaces, viral copies, and viral infectivity.

Dr. Reiman commented on the results:

This is really exciting data, because we see that, in the humidified room, we’re reducing the amount of flu that we see in the air, which is the main way that flu is transmitted, and also on surfaces, the secondary route.

Read the full study, “Humidify to Reduce Respiratory Virus Transmission,” on the DriSteem website.