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Researchers will mimic daycare settings to study flu transmission

Cathedral view through trees on sunny day

Seema Lakdawala, associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, is leading a subproject on an $8.8 million grant called MITIGATE FLU.

The research will trace how respiratory viruses spread in child care settings. The grant is divided into three projects investigating unknowns about the flu, like why it’s seasonal and how much flu is transmitted via aerosols versus by touching a contaminated surface.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Emory University, Georgetown University, the University of Michigan and Virginia Tech are collaborating on the project.

Lakdawala’s subproject builds on her previous work that found flu virus particles can survive across varying humidity conditions. The current work will test how humidity and temperature affect various modes of flu transmission — by replicating a play space with toys commonly found in child care settings for ferrets in a lab.

The results will provide insight into how to stop the spread of the virus.

About 7,000 to 26,000 children in the United States are hospitalized with the flu each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the virus affects between 9 million and 41 million Americans annually.