What makes the flu so contagious? Find out how easily it spreads—and what you can do about it—in this infographic.
How the flu spreads
How influenza spreads, and how to help protect yourself.
See two common ways this contagious—and sometimes serious—virus gets on the move. Plus, what you can do to stay out of its path.
PERSON TO PERSON
The flu virus can travel up to 6 feet when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. Droplets can land in the nose or mouth or be inhaled into the lungs.
SURFACE TO PERSON
The flu virus can survive on surfaces for as long as 8 hours. You could get infected if you touch a contaminated object and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes.
TOP PREVENTION TIP: GET THE FLU VACCINE EVERY YEAR
The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu. Everyone 6 months or older should get it as soon as it's available.
MORE STAY-WELL STRATEGIES
Enlist these habits to help prevent colds and flu.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue in the trash.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Keep your hands away from your nose, eyes or mouth. Flu-filled droplets can spread this way.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may have germs on them. And avoid sharing utensils, linens and other items with someone who's sick with the flu.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Linger longer at the sink to help yourself stay well.
Sources: American Lung Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health
- American Lung Association. "Influenza (Flu)." https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/influenza.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Guidance for School Administrators to Help Reduce the Spread of Seasonal Influenza in K-12 Schools." https://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/guidance.htm.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "How Flu Spreads." https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Who Needs a Flu Vaccine.” https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm.
- National Institutes of Health. "Cold-weather Wellness: Tips For Staying Healthy This Season." https://magazine.medlineplus.gov/article/cold-weather-wellness-tips-for-staying-healthy-this-season.