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Published on November 08, 2018

Stop the Spread of the Flu

The flu is spread person to person either by respiratory droplets or contact.

Because flu symptoms generally appear 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body, those infected can spread the virus days before any symptoms develop.  However, those with the flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their symptoms begin.  In addition, once symptoms begin to resolve, the virus can continue to be spread.  Healthy adults can spread the flu virus up to five to seven days after becoming sick while children and those with weakened immune systems can pass the virus for longer than seven days.

Spreading of the flu can occur when droplets are expelled from our mouths and noses each time we exhale, speak, cough and sneeze.  Generally our respiratory droplets travel approximately two to three feet before falling.  When coughing or sneezing, those droplets can travel five to six feet through the air.

“Covering your cough if very important to stop the spread of droplets during cold and flu season.  If you do not have a tissue readily available, use the inside of your elbow, and immediately clean your hands afterward,” said Chanda Newsome, Director of Infection Control at Wayne UNC Health Care.

Contact with surfaces contaminated with the flu virus can also be the cause of transmission.  Touching the surface followed by touching the nose or mouth can introduce the flu into the respiratory tract just as breathing in the virus can do.

Proper hand hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of the flu by contact.  Proper hand hygiene includes washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand gel or foam when hand washing is not available.  Remember to cover all surfaces of the hands including in-between the fingers and the nailbeds.

And as always, the best way to protect yourself and those around you against the flu is to get an annual flu shot.  It is important to get vaccinated before you come into contact with the virus.  Flu vaccines are now being offered at provider offices as well as pharmacies.

School about flu and flu symptoms

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