What’s the best way to avoid being laid low by the flu bug as we head into flu season? It might be that getting out of town is more effective than getting a flu shot.
A recent study has concluded that big cities have longer, “more vicious” flu seasons. One of the researchers in the study explained: “Larger cities have more organized movement patterns, and these patterns connect pockets of high population density together.” The density factor is significant given how flu is transmitted. As the researcher noted: “Flu spreads from person to person by virus-bearing moisture droplets that an infected person exhales or coughs or sneezes out. This creates what you can think of as a moving cloud of risk around an infected individual.”
“A moving cloud of risk around an infected individual,” eh? Make you want to go sit on the bus or the subway with a bunch of potentially sick strangers, doesn’t it?
None of this is a surprise to anyone who’s had kids, because it’s just the “preschool effect” writ large. Once your kids go to preschool and are exposed to a bunch of other germy, sniffling rugrats, you suddenly notice that everybody in the family, including you, is sicker than they’ve ever been before. Preschool undoubtedly helps to build up the immune system of children, because it is a living testament to the communicability of every different kind of cold, contagion, and virus. Cities, and particularly mass transit settings in cities, are like one big preschool, where that “moving cloud of risk around an infected individual” is a lot more likely to find you.
Last winter’s flu season was a particularly savage one, and is estimated to have caused 80,000 deaths and a record number of hospitalizations. If you want to avoid the bug this year, you might just want to get the heck out of town.