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How the flu is spread

Updated: Tuesday, January 15 2013, 11:55 AM EST
Health officials across the country are battling a fast moving  flu virus..
More than 40 states have reported serious cases of the flu.
How flu germs spread and how you can protect yourself.

We touch so many things without even realizing it. 
Take a simple trip on the subway. 

Buying a metro card.
Going down the escalator.
That's only the beginning.

"The flu virus can spread easily in an enclosed place, like a subway station."

"The flu is a virus that usually spreads through contact. So anytime we cough or sneeze, if we're infected with the virus, we can be contagious to anyone is not affected."

The flu virus can spread to others up to 6 feet away, according to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. 

And flu germs can remain suspended in the air.
The top 3 ways to catch the flu: 
-being near someone who is sick who sneezes, coughs or talks spreading infected droplets
-drinking from the same cup or sharing a utensil...
-and touching a germy surface and then touching your eyes or mouth.

And you can pass the virus to someone before you even know you're sick

"Somebody can be contagious with influenza up to a day prior to developing symptoms. Symptoms typically present as sneezing and coughing and so on, and up to 7 days post developing those symptoms, so the flu virus can be fairly contagious over a long period of time."

To see how easy it is to spread germs we tried out this experiment with something called Glo Germ. 

Just look what this black light picked up.
If this were the flu virus or cold germs, I would be leaving a trail behind for someone else to catch.

Using cleaning products to keep surfaces germ free can minimize the chances of spreading the flu. 

And it's important to wash hands thoroughly.
Jessica Benton is with Calico Industries, a company that distributes Glo Germ  as a way to teach proper hygiene.

"Some people sing the A-B-Cs or Happy Birthday two times. but a least 20 seconds of vigorous washing. I do know when people do wash their hands they may not go in between their fingers, get underneath their fingers. so there's a lot of germs that you cant - obviously you can't see germs but they do get stuck behind when you don't wash your hands properly."

So, how long can germs live on surfaces?
Doctors say typically 2  -  8 hours, but there have been reports of up to 48 hours.
Soap and water is the best for washing hands, but if you don't have access to them hand sanitizer is effective.

How the flu is spread

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Flu Signs and Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:


Flu Symptoms (more intense than common cold):

  • Fever 
  • Body aches
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough are more common and intense
  • Chills
  • HeadachesCommon

Cold Symptoms:  
  • Stuffy/runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever is rare
  • Slight body aches
  • Mild fatigue

Source: Centers for Disease Control

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