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reviewed 6/24/2019

How the flu spreads.

How the flu spreads and how to help stop it.

What makes the flu so contagious? Find out how easily it spreads—and what you can do about it—in this infographic.

Select for prevention tips.

Every year, millions of Americans come down with the flu. Find out how this contagious bug gets on the move and 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.

Prevention tip: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue in the trash.

Prevention tip: Avoid touching your hand to your nose, eyes or mouth. Flu-filled droplets can spread this way.

Flu fact: You can be contagious 1 day before symptoms develop and up to a week after becoming sick.

(Flu can spread) on surfaces

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.

Prevention tip: Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Prevention tip: Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may have germs on them.

Prevention tip: Avoid sharing utensils, linens and other items with someone who's sick with the flu.

Flu fact: There are many strains of flu virus that can make you sick. That means you can get the flu more than once in a year.

Get the vaccine every year

The flu vaccine the best protection against the flu. Everyone 6 months or older should get it as soon as it's available.

Sources: American Lung Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;; National Institutes of Health

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