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Tissue being pulled from boxPreventing the spread of the flu

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


With the prevalence of influenza in the U.S. this flu season, it is very likely that many people have had or know someone who has had the flu. Here is some information and tips that may help prevent the flu.


Influenza is generally believed to spread from person to person, even as far as six feet away, as water droplets expelled in a cough, sneeze or from talking land in another person’s mouth or nose. These droplets can also spread by the uninfected person touching germy surfaces and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. People can prevent this spread by washing hands often. It is especially important to wash hands before eating. We should avoid putting objects in our mouths, which includes pencils, fingers or fingernails, hair or jewelry. We should also avoid licking a finger before turning a page.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.”


In addition to washing hands often to prevent getting the flu, we should also wash often to prevent from spreading it, which would occur before we even know we are infected. People with flu symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting, should separate themselves from others. They should only go out to get medical treatment, if warranted. The CDC recommends that those with symptoms “stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings.” The goal is to keep the influenza virus contained where the infected person is and keep it away from others. If the infected person must go out, it is best to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw the tissue away immediately, and wash hands often to keep germs off other objects and surfaces.


Although a fever is not always present with the flu, when it is, this is one symptom that can be used to know when a person is no longer contagious. The CDC recommends that a person stay away from others until the fever is gone for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medicine.


For more information on what to do with someone who has the flu, contact a medical professional. For more information on preventing the spread of the flu or general information about flu symptoms and treatment, visit the CDC website at


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Last Updated 01/15/2013