At what point is a person with the flu contagious and how long can their germs live outside of their body?
Most adults are contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms generally begin one to fo... read more
Source: Laura Kehler, GCH Infection Prevention Coordinator
Most adults are contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms generally begin one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you even know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
How long germs live depends on where they fall. Specific cold and flu germs have survival times ranging from a few minutes to 48 hours or more. How long such germs remain capable of infecting you in day-to day life is harder to say.
Germs generally remain active longer on stainless steel, plastic and similar hard surfaces than on fabric and other soft surfaces. It’s easy to catch the flu or a cold from rubbing your nose after handling an infected object an infected person sneezed on. But personal contact with an infected person — a handshake, for example — is the most common way these germs spread.
The best way to avoid becoming infected with a cold or flu virus is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer. Again, and most importantly, get a flu vaccine every year.