The flu virus spreads easily because it is highly contagious.
Throughout the U.S., an average of
5% to 20% of the population
gets the flu each year.
16 million and 63 million people!
The flu is mainly spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Droplets excreted by the sick individual can land in the mouth or nose of other people nearby. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an individual infected with the flu can spread the virus to someone up to six feet away.
There is also the possibility for the flu virus to be spread by being inhaled into the lungs. Although uncommon, a person can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has been contaminated with the flu virus and then touching his/her own mouth or nose. This highlights the importance of good hygiene and hand washing practices to prevent the spread of illness!
Healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before flu symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
Children may pass the virus for even longer than 7 days (another reason why they are considered “super spreaders”!). Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that 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.
Additionally, some people can become infected with the flu virus without ever showing symptoms. Those people can still spread the virus to others.