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How NOT to Get the Flu: Here's How to Prevent the Virus From Spreading

It's now widespread in Virginia, officials say.

The flu usually spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Photo Credit: James Gathany, CDC.
The flu usually spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Photo Credit: James Gathany, CDC.
The flu is here, with officials reporting that cases are widespread in Virginia and increasing across the country, but health officials say you can help prevent the virus from spreading by taking common sense steps in your everyday routine.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that you "Take 3" actions to help stop the flu from spreading: get a flu vaccination, follow good health habits, and take anti-viral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

There CDC lists specific steps you can take to stop the spread of germs at home, at work and at school.

Among the everyday things you can do to help prevent the spread of flu, either before you get it or once you have it:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

These steps are critical because the flu is a contagious respiratory illness that about 1 in 5 Americans get every year. The flu season begins in the fall, peaking in January and February, but it can continue as late as May.

Influenza spreads from person to person, and the CDC says those who have the flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. 

Most experts believe that you get the flu when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.

  • Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
  • Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. 
  • Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. 
  • That means you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. 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.

For more information about influenza, its symptoms, prevention and treatment, or cases reported, you can visit flu.gov, the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health, or the District of Columbia Department of Health.

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