How the Flu Spreads
Person to Person
People who have the flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are 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 or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. 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 or nose.
To avoid this, people should stay away from sick people and stay home if sick. It also is important to wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Eating utensils can be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap and do not need to be cleaned separately. Further, frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at home, work and school, especially if someone is ill.
The Flu is Contagious
Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are unwell, as well as while you are ill. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others. Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm
Recognize symptoms of the flu, like:
- Fever* (usually high) or feeling feverish/chills
- Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- Sometimes vomiting (more common in children than adults)
- Sometimes diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
*It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever. Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/symptoms.htm
How flu affects one's wellness varies. Flu is unpredictable and how severe it is can fluctuate widely from one season to the next depending on many things, including:
- What type of flu viruses are spreading.
- The timing of flu season.
- How many people get vaccinated.
- How well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing illness.
Between 2010 and 2014, estimates of annual flu-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of 12,000 to a high of approximately 56,000 people. Sources:https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/burden.htm, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm
It is difficult to distinguish the flu from other infections on the basis of symptoms alone. A doctor's exam may be needed to tell whether you have developed the flu or a complication of the flu. There are tests that can determine if you have the flu as long as you are tested within the first 3 or 4 days of illness.
If you develop flu-like symptoms and are concerned about your wellness, especially if you are at high risk for complications of the flu, you should consult your doctor or healthcare provider. Flu symptoms can include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Those at high risk for complications include people over 65, those with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, young children and residents of nursing homes and long term care facilities. Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/diagnosis/clinician_guidance_ridt.htm, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm
Take antiviral drugs to treat influenza if recommended by your doctor.
- Most people ill with the flu will recover without complications. However, for those at increased risk of complications, antiviral drugs may be recommended.
- Antiviral drugs are medicines (pills, liquid, intravenous solution, or inhaled powder) prescribed by your doctor or health care provider that fight the flu by keeping viruses from reproducing in your body.
- The flu may be caused by different viruses. Your doctor can do a test to determine if an antiviral drug will work for you.
- For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started within the first two days of symptoms.
- Antiviral drugs are not sold over the counter and are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections.