Taking public transit won’t give you the flu, says study

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Common sense tells us that if we're in a confined space with a lot of other people, like on bus, a subway car or a train car, the chances of us catching the flu (or passing it on if we're the carrier) is much higher than if we were somewhere else. However, scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have found that you actually have a higher chance of catching something if you don't take public transportation.

Presenting their findings at the Cheltenham Science Festival on Thursday afternoon, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) flu researchers Alma Adler and Ken Eames discussed the results of an online survey of 6,000 UK commuters, which showed that taking public transportation didn't increase your chances of getting the flu. In fact, people who didn't take public modes of transportation reported a slightly higher rate of infection.

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"The findings will no doubt come as a huge surprise to the many workers who blame being under the weather on their daily commute," said Adler, according to the The Telegraph.

"In London where most people take public transport, the level of infection was no higher than elsewhere and in fact was slightly lower," she added. "Flu tends to be spread by direct contact and so it is probably children who are tending to drive the spread more than public transport."

Part of the reason for the lower rate of infection for commuters crammed together on buses and trains could be because they tend to be around a lot more people, and therefore a lot more 'foreign' germs, and thus they build up a stronger immune system.

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They also discussed their findings in a LSHTM podcast back in January, along with topics like 'man flu' (where men report worse flu symptoms than women), who tends to get the flu most often (hint: it's kids), the rates of infection in different European countries, and the effectiveness of flu vaccines (they really do work).

(Images courtesy: Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press, Flusurvey)

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