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How is the flu spread?

Most flus are caused by viruses—microbes that cannot live outside of cells and are subject to drying. Therefore, when looking at ways of preventing spread, it is important to look for droplets of fluid containing contaminated cells. Two of the most vulnerable areas are found in the bathroom—the toilet and the toothbrush. When the toilet is flushed, the flu viruses are carried out into the environment. They often settle on the toothbrush or other intimate devices—ready to be spread to the entire family. The best preventive measures are to close the lid of the toilet when flushing and storing the toothbrush on a windowsill where it will receive sun exposure.

The flu spreads from person to person, mostly through the coughs and sneezes of a person who is sick with the virus. Sometimes people may become infected by touching a surface or object with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

People with the flu can infect others starting 24 hours before they first have symptoms and lasting 5 to 7 days or more after they have symptoms. This can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weak immune systems.

The flu, or influenza, is a viral disease of the respiratory tract—the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs—and is highly contagious. It is spread through airborne droplets of moisture produced by coughs or sneezes. When you breathe these germs in through your nose or mouth, you may come down with the flu, generally within one to three days of exposure.

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or possibly their nose.

Dr. Susie Whitworth, PhD
Nursing Specialist

The flu is spread from person to person by droplets when the infected person coughs, talks, or sneezes. The droplets can travel up to 6 feet. The flu can also be spread by touching an object with the flu virus on it. The flu can be spread to others from 1 day before symptoms develop to 7 days after symptoms develop.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.