Absolute humidity modulates influenza survival, transmission, and seasonality

Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF


Attribute NameValues
  • Influenza A incidence peaks during winter in temperate regions. The basis for this pronounced seasonality is not understood, nor is it well documented how influenza A transmission principally occurs. Previous studies indicate that relative humidity (RH) affects both influenza virus transmission (IVT) and influenza virus survival (IVS). Here, we reanalyze these data to explore the effects of absolute humidity on IVT and IVS. We find that absolute humidity (AH) constrains both transmission efficiency and IVS much more significantly than RH. In the studies presented, 50% of IVT variability and 90% of IVS variability are explained by AH, whereas, respectively, only 12% and 36% are explained by RH. In temperate regions, both outdoor and indoor AH possess a strong seasonal cycle that minimizes in winter. This seasonal cycle is consistent with a wintertime increase in IVS and IVT and may explain the seasonality of influenza. Thus, differences in AH provide a single, coherent, more physically sound explanation for the observed variability of IVS, IVT and influenza seasonality in temperate regions. This hypothesis can be further tested through future, additional laboratory, epidemiological and modeling studies.
  • Keywords: droplet nuclei, virus survival, vapor pressure, aerosol
Resource Type
Date Available
Date Issued
  • Shaman, J., & Kohn, M. Absolute humidity modulates influenza survival, transmission, and seasonality [Electronic version]. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(9), 3243-3248. doi:10.1073/pnas.0806852106
Journal Title
Journal Volume
  • 106
Journal Issue/Number
  • 9
Rights Statement



This work has no parents.