How Long Is the Flu Contagious

How long is the flu contagious? These fast-spreading virus moves from person to person via small droplets that surge through the air after a sneeze or cough. Directly touching respiratory drops will also infect someone. It is a viral illness, so therefore no antibiotics can be used to treat it.

How It Spreads
The influenza virus resides in a person's lungs, so when he coughs up mucous or sneeze, the hitchhikers shoot through the air, sometimes up to three feet away, and land on different surfaces. Generally, the droplets land on the mouth, eyes or nose of a person standing close. Others may land on an object that is then handled by someone else. All someone needs to do is touch their fingers to their mouth or nose and the virus has a new home.

Flu Virus Outside the Body
The flu virus can live outside the body for up to two days and still remain contagious, depending on the surface, the temperature and the type of virus. Influenza virus is thought to live longer on surfaces that are not porous, such as wood or metal. So, how long is the flu is contagious? It can vary.

Symptoms Onset
The sudden manifestation of a fever, chills, sneezing, coughing and runny nose means that the influenza virus has been occupying the body for around four to six days already. A person is most contagious in the day or two before showing symptoms, up to about four days after they manifest. Unfortunately, this means many people are interacting with others, spreading the virus, before they even know they are sick. Children can remain contagious for up to 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

Flu Season
While people can contract influenza any time of year, the flu season reaches its peak from December through March. Besides administering the standard flu remedies when the virus hits, it's possible to be proactive in prevention. Many people sign up to receive a flu vaccine in the early fall to prepare the body for a possible encounter with a flu virus later that year. Studies show that at-risk people can lower their risk of contracting the flu by 80 percent by using the flu vaccine.

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