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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Raise Your Flu IQ

Your Flu Questions Answered


Question: How long are you contagious?

Dr. Clements: Most adults are contagious for about five to seven days. With young children, it's longer. The youngest kids (1 to 2 year olds) can be contagious for 10-14 days. And they can also have diarrheal illness when they get the flu. They get more symptoms that we adults typically have.

Note: According to the CDC, people with lowered immune systems -- such as people with AIDS or people taking drugs to prevent transplant rejection -- can shed flu virus for weeks or months after infection.

Question: How soon after coming in contact with the flu virus are you contagious?

According to the CDC, a person begins shedding virus a day before symptoms appear. This can occur as soon as one day after exposure.

Question: How do you know when you're contagious?

When you get symptoms, the virus has multiplied in your body to the point you can give the flu to someone else. But you aren't likely to spread the infection -- except maybe to close household contacts -- until you start coughing or sneezing.

Question: How long does the virus live on the phone, desk, etc?

Dr. Clements: Maybe an hour. It depends on the moisture in the air and the temperature of the room.

Question: Can you kill the virus with disinfectants?

Dr. Clements: Yes. Alcohol or anything that kills other germs would work.

Question: If you come in contact with someone that has the flu, is it 100% certain that you'll get the flu?

Dr. Clements: No. Not necessarily, but droplets that land on your face are very contagious. If a person has the flu, they should at least turn away from others when they cough or sneeze. If you find yourself on an elevator with someone who is coughing or sneezing, the best thing you can do is turn away.

Question: Can you get the flu from the flu vaccine? What symptoms can you get from the flu vaccine?

Dr. Clements: No. The flu shot is just killed virus. The FluMist spray vaccine is a live, weakened form and when you get it you may have some mild symptoms as if you were starting to get flu. You might even briefly have a runny nose, but you won't get the flu.

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