On The Early Show Monday, medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips of CBS station WCBS-TV in New York observed that experts have long wondered why the flu is primarily a winter phenomenon, and there was never a single answer to explain it completely.
Now, Phillips says, a team of researchers from the National Institutes of Health has found that the flu virus coats itself with a fatty material that hardens and protects it in colder temperatures.
When the mercury rises, the coating melts, and unless it's inside a person, the virus dies.
And, once it's inside a human, the respiratory tract melts the coating, and the virus is then able to infect the person's cells.
Might that finding lead to a cure, or new treatments?
The virus' shell, Phillips explained, may make it difficult to wash off of surfaces and fingertips. In in theory, that information may enable scientists to develop a detergent or wash that could eradicate the virus and cut down on its transmission.
Until that happens, the best defense against the flu is a flu shot, Phillips says.
Other steps you could take:
1) Avoid sugar: Sugar is thought to limit the immune system
2) Avoid stress and get enough rest: Stress and fatigue sabotage your immune system
3) Eat garlic regularly: Some evidence says garlic kills flu viruses in addition to bacteria and fungus
4) Exercise: It boosts your immune system
5) Keep windows slightly open: Good air circulation may minimize the spread of winter viruses.
6) Wash hands frequently. "We can't say it enough," Phillips stressed.