How Flu Spreads in the Workplace

How Flu Spreads in the Workplace

Staten Island business bank sees merit in understanding transmission risks

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- While Ebola continues to be in the news from West Africa, flu is the major workplace health issue closer to home.


Victory State Bank, Staten Island's only community-based commercial bank, observes that some caveats are saying the common flu disease poses more of a risk to Americans than Ebola.


When it comes to businesses maintaining a healthy workplace, the bank offers that scientific discoveries about contagious flu transmission can be instructive.


To unravel some reasons that winter is prime time for flu, a Virginia Tech researcher has been focusing on miniscule airborne droplets spread by means like sneezing and coughing.


Many cases of the flu are spread by airborne transmission when infected people send thousands of tiny droplets containing mucus, saliva, and viral particles soaring through the air.


The bigger droplets settle on doorknobs, counters and keyboards, a university research report said, but the smallest ones hang in the air, an invisible infectious mist just waiting to be sucked into the lungs of the next victim.


As recovering flu victims struggle back to work and new cases keep cropping up, the university said the question on everyone’s mind is: What can people do about it?


Linsey Marr, a professor in the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, wondered why those droplets seemed to cause more infections in the winter.


She focused on one major environmental condition: humidity. Indoor humidity is lower in the winter, when central heating dries out the air.


As the air gets drier, it sucks moisture out of those mucus droplets. As the droplets shrivel and crystallize, the reduction in water increases the concentration of salts and proteins and changes the acidity.


Marr found that between 50 percent and 98 percent humidity, the virus doesn’t survive well: the droplets dry out just enough to be inhospitable.


But at very low humidity -- as exists indoors in the winter -- droplets can dry out completely, preserving the virus like microscopic beef jerky, the university explained.


Marr's explorations are continuing. She plans to extend her research on droplet-based disease transmission to another highly infectious virus: Ebola.


Unlike the flu, Ebola is mostly spread by contact, but under “very special circumstances,” Marr said — like spray from infected sewage -- droplets flying through the air could spread infection.


Because Ebola’s mortality rate is so high, even a low risk of airborne transmission warrants study, the university said.


Separately, the matter of coping and taking preventive steps is the aim of pointers from a physician who is also an author.


Dr. Fred Pescatore of Manhattan, whose website is about populist health and nutrition topics, says it makes sense to worry about influenza, which has been blamed for annual fatality statistics.

In addition, complications of flu -- including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions -- are also a concern.

For this reason, he notes, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older get a flu vaccine every season.

Aside from the obvious steps of washing hands frequently and getting a flu shot, he advocates bolstering immune defenses, because a strong immune system will help stave off whatever infection the body has to confront.

Two of his tips are to reduce sugar intake and to get sufficient sleep.

Sugar, he says, depresses immune function. Research as far back as 1973 shows that when people are administered 20 teaspoons of sugar (as glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey or orange juice), the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria declines by 50 percent.

The effect is observable within 30 minutes, he says, and lasts as long as five hours. A few servings of soda, he points out, can add almost as much as those 20 teaspoons.

Sleep is absolutely essential for various body functions, including immunity, he notes. For a recent study volunteers snorted nasal drops that contained a cold-causing virus. Then they were monitored to see how much they slept and who caught a cold.

People who slept less than seven hours a night were nearly three times as likely to get sick as those who got eight hours or more, he says.

Likewise, another study found that folks who were restricted to getting four hours of sleep nightly for six nights before receiving a flu vaccine only made half the amount of antibodies as normal.


About Victory State Bank


VSB Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQX: VSBN) is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. As Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank, Victory State Bank operates five full-service locations on the Island: The main office in the community of Great Kills, and branches in the communities of West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank. For additional information, Victory State Bank may be reached at 718-979-1100 or visited online at



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