Hi virus-fighters!

My name is Carolien van de Sandt, a researcher from the Viroscience department of the ErasmusMC and a Planet Virus coach for the last couple of years. This year I will start a new adventure in Melbourne (Australia) where I will study how our immune system develops over the years and how these developments affect our ability to protect ourselves against various virus infections.

As part of the Planet Virus project I will blog about my scientific adventures in Australia, I hope to meet researchers who, like you, study different viruses and their transmission routes. With these blogs I would like to give you an insight in the life of real virus-fighters and inform you as much as possible on the different viruses you will be studying in the coming months, their transmission routes and how their research contributes to prevent infection or transmission.

My first blog however starts in the Netherlands. I recently got a phone call from a Dutch television show (De Buitendienst), the hosts of the show were making a program on viruses and they wanted to know how influenza viruses transmit. Influenza viruses are present in snot and saliva of a person suffering from flu, which means that by talking, coughing and sneezing they can spread the virus from person-to-person through the air (airborne transmission). Droplets of snot can spread up to 6m once you sneeze:

You can always sneeze in a tissue or in your hand to prevent further spread through the air. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the virus in now on your hands! If you don’t wash your hands the virus can spread through contact transmission. For example you sneeze in your hand and then shake hands, now the virus is on the hands of another person. When this person touches his/her nose they will also be at risk of being infected. Because viruses are so small you cannot see how easily they transmit. For De Buitendienst I used a fluorescent powder to visualize how the virus could spread during a party without people even realizing it!!! If you want to see this for yourself you can watch the show on January 19th, 17:45 on Zapp (Dutch television). A link to the trailer:

So sneeze in your hand or tissue, but don’t forget to wash your hands!