Jennifer M Reiman is an Immunologist with expertise in infectious diseases and cancer. She is interested in reducing the spread of infectious diseases such as respiratory viruses, particularly influenza. Her research is aimed at finding easy and cost-effective interventions to reduce respiratory virus transmission including the possibility of humidification during dry (low humidity) winter conditions in temperate climates such as Minnesota, USA. She is also involved in science education partnerships with schools (pre-K through middle school) through Integrated Science Education Outreach (InSciEd Out) a non-profit based within the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.


Statement of the Problem: Annual influenza epidemics are responsible for 250000- 500000 deaths worldwide. Preschool and elementary school classrooms represent a significant source of influenza. There is a need for cost effective interventions that reduce influenza and respiratory illnesses in classrooms.

Methodology: Study was conducted at Aldrich Memorial Nursery School, Rochester, MN (a preschool with students aged 2-5 years) from January 2016-March 2016. Classrooms of identical design each with their own HVAC system for air handling were utilized. Two classrooms had humidifiers (DriSteem) installed and were compared to two non-humidified classrooms (control rooms) with similar aged students. Data on outdoor and classroom temperatures and relative humidity was gathered to calculate absolute humidity. Air samples were collected using NIOSH samplers. Fomites were collected from objects (e.g., markers, wooden blocks) wrapped in 25% cotton linen paper that students interacted with. Paper and air samples were further processed to determine infectivity (in cell culture) or viral RNA presence and quantity by qRT-PCR.

Conclusion & Significance: Absolute humidity from January 25-March 11, 2016 for outdoors as well as indoor classroom environments is depicted. With humidification we were able to maintain elevated absolute humidity at an average of 9.89 mb compared to 6.33 mb in control rooms (1/25/16-2/23/16). Humidifiers were turned off after sample collection on 2/23/16 as ambient humidity had increased in control rooms approaching that of humidified rooms. Additionally, we investigated if there were differences in the amount of influenza A RNA in positive samples. We quantitated the NS1 gene copy number and compared samples to our standard curve with known copy numbers of the gene. The median copy number between the two groups (humidified versus controls) was statistically significant for both paper (P= 0.043, t=2.123) and air (P=0.032, t=2.435).