COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WUSA) About the only upside to the widespread flu outbreak now underway is the chance that sufferers could get paid for getting sick.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health are offering anywhere from $20 to $300 for people willing to be tested for a major international study on how the virus spreads.
Doctors are looking for people in the very early stages of the illness who have active symptoms like fever, coughing and body aches.
"People might be surprised to learn that we don't know for sure how flu spreads," says Dr. Donald Milton, a lead collaborator on the study being funded by the Centers for Disease Control.
Milton says there is no doubt the flu spreads more easily in dry, cool winter conditions -- and that face masks and hand washing are effective precautionary measures. But there remains little research that would help public health officials make fully informed decisions about closing schools or public transit systems or whether investments in certain air purification systems would be worthwhile during a catastrophic outbreak.