The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to
person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. (This is called "droplet
spread.") This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected
person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of
people nearby. Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches
respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own
mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands.
Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick do not
need to be cleaned separately, but importantly these items should not be shared
without washing thoroughly first. Linens (such as bed sheets and towels) should
be washed by using household laundry soap and tumbled dry on a hot setting.
Individuals should avoid “hugging” laundry prior to washing it to prevent
contaminating themselves. Individuals should wash their hands with soap and
water immediately after handling dirty laundry. If soap and water are not
available, they should use an alcohol-based hand rub* to clean their
hands. Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with
water and soap.
When Gina Gallo, a school librarian in Lacombe, La., gets sick, she can take
care of herself. She gets her own medicine, makes her own food, and "deals with
it," as she puts it. But when her fiancé gets a cold, she says he has "a
complete system breakdown."
"The world stops and the whining is incessant," she says. "I am expected to
bring him food, take care of him, and generally treat him like the baby that he
Gallo's fiancé declined to talk with WebMD for this story. Their Mars-Venus
Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day
before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days
after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer
than seven days. Symptoms start one to four 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. Some
persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this
time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.