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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Preventing Influenza

A person washing their hands

Photo: PhotoDisc

Because flu viruses spread in respiratory droplets distributed by coughing and sneezing, they readily spread from person to person. Additionally, people may become infected by touching surfaces contaminated with flu virus and then touching their mouths and noses. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others as soon as one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after actually becoming sick. That means that you can pass on the flu to someone else before and after you know you are sick. It is important to avoid close contact with people who may have influenza. If you are sick, keep your distance from others and, if possible, stay home from work, school and other activities. You will help prevent the spread of germs and protect others from catching the flu. By covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, you may help prevent those around you from getting the flu. Frequent hand washing will also help protect you and others from germs. In the United States, the primary option for reducing the effect of seasonal influenza is through annual vaccination.

Read More "Understanding Flu" Articles

Understanding Flu / Is It a Cold or the Flu? / How Does Seasonal Flu Differ From Pandemic Flu? / Preventing Influenza

Fall 2006 Issue: Volume 1 Number 1 Page 21