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Researchers Investigate Flu Vs. Coronavirus Transmission In Florida

Comparing the two diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says influenza can spread faster, while mortality appears higher for COVID-19.
Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash
Comparing the two diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says influenza can spread faster, while mortality appears higher for COVID-19.

Research shows Florida is different than the rest of the nation in terms of how our climate impacts flu transmission.

While influenza is not equivalent to COVID-19, it’s a good case study in how the coronavirus might progress.

So researchers, like Florida State University associate professor Chris Uejio, have been looking into it.

"We’ve found that the southeast has a different seasonality of flu than the rest of the U.S. So that might mean that the dynamics of how that may present risk to people may actually be spread out more over the year in the southeast and in Florida in particular," Uejio says. "Many people are talking about a second fall or winter wave of this epidemic. It’s quite possible that we’ll continue to see this existing wave carry on through the summer and then next spring and next summer.”

Uejio specializes in geography and public health. He says it’s possible that the virus could be spread out over a longer period of time here than in cold, dry climates.

He says one potential benefit of the current situation is a greater awareness of how diseases are spread.

“Maybe a month ago there was a stigma perhaps against wearing a mask in public, and you can see how rapidly things might evolve now where perhaps there is a stigma against NOT wearing a mask," Uejio says. "So having a better understanding of how some of these infectious diseases work could actually help prevent other infectious diseases going forward.”

Uejio sees another silver lining -- an increase in the resilience of our institutions to respond to surprises like environmental disasters or a pandemic.

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Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. She left after a few years to spend more time with her son, working part-time as the capital reporter/producer for WLRN Public Media in Miami and as a drama teacher at Young Actors Theatre. She also blogged and reported for StateImpact Florida, an NPR education project, and produced podcasts and articles for AVISIAN Publishing. Gina has won awards for features, breaking news coverage, and newscasts from contests including the Associated Press, Green Eyeshade, and Murrow Awards. Gina is on the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors. Gina is thrilled to be back at WFSU! In her free time, she likes to read, travel, and watch her son play football. Follow Gina Jordan on Twitter: @hearyourthought