We know that a person can spread COVID-19 to other people even before symptoms develop, but what about the flu? When is the flu most contagious?
Like COVID, you can spread the flu to other people before symptoms appear. Most people begin to be contagious 1 day before they start feeling sick, and continue to be for 5 to 7 more days (young children and those with weakened immune symptoms may be contagious for even longer). You may be most contagious during the first 3-4 days of illness because that’s when you’re coughing and sneezing the most. Whenever you cough and sneeze, you expel droplets containing the virus. If someone nearby breathes in one of those droplets, they could get the flu, too. Or those virus-containing droplets could land on surfaces, where the influenza virus can survive for at least 48 hours. Someone could touch that infected surface, then touch their nose, and become infected that way.
Preventing the spread of flu is more crucial than ever this year because it’s possible to become infected with both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could be deadly. Even an otherwise healthy person’s immune system may not be able to fight off two respiratory viruses at once.
To stop the spread of the flu, you should, first of all, get a flu shot. Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer. Clean your home even more frequently than usual. Use antibacterial wipes (if you can find them) or a bleach solution to clean high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and kitchen cabinets.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of flu, too! You should wear a mask in public at all times to help stop the spread of the flu and COVID-19, and if you start to get sick, you should wear a mask at home to protect the health of the people who live with you.