How Germs Spread
Illnesses such as the flu (influenza) and colds are caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu and colds usually spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
How to Help Stop the Spread of Germs
1. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands and do so every time you cough or sneeze.
2. Clean your hands often.
When available, wash your hands with soap and warm water, then rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all skin surfaces. Wash for 15 to 20 seconds. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. If using a gel, rub the gel in your hands until they are dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in the gel kills germs that cause colds and the flu.
3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth. Germs can live for a long time (some can live for two hours or more) on surfaces like doorknobs, desks and tables.
4. Stay home when you are sick and check with a health care provider when needed. When you are sick or have flu symptoms, stay home, get plenty of rest and check with a health care provider as needed. Remember: keeping your distance from others may protect them from getting sick. Common symptoms of the flu include:
• Fever (usually high)
• Extreme tiredness
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle aches
• Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
5. Practice other good health habits.
Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. Practicing healthy habits will help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year long.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/flu or call the CDC Flu Information Line at (800) CDC-INFO.