Photo/IllutrationHumidifiers on sale this season at home electric appliances retailer Bic Camera Inc.’s Shinjuku West store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward on Jan. 18 (Ryuhei Tsutsui)

A flu epidemic is driving up humidifier sales during a record dry spell that started in January.

Maintaining a humidity level of between 50 percent and 60 percent indoors is said to reduce chances of catching the virus.

Humidifier sales are up 30 percent at the home electric appliance retailer Bic Camera Inc.'s outlet in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward.

Yodobashi Camera Co. said its sales are 40 percent higher over the same period last year.

Tokyo had no rain for 19 days between Dec. 24 and Jan. 11, the sixth-longest dry period on record in the November to April cold season.

“The air is so dry, I must do something,” said a male customer, checking out humidifiers at Bic Camera’s Shinjuku West store.

Fifty or so models of humidifier are on sale at the Bic Camera’s store, from compact types attachable to a pet bottle mouth, to large ones that humidify a wider space.

Mid-range items costing between 5,000 yen ($45) and 10,000 yen that have a high speed humidifying function are big sellers.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Pacific Ocean side of the archipelago has experienced prolonged sunny weather this winter and continuously dry conditions.

Many areas in the Kanto region had less than 20 percent of average rainfall in January.

Although the flu season is expected to end this month, more misery is on the way with the arrival of hay fever season in spring.

“As the pollen count this year is forecast to exceptionally high, humidifiers also can work to prevent pollen from spreading, we hope customers use them during the hay fever season," said a Bic Camera staff member.