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Germwatch: Understanding How The Flu Spreads and How Long It Lasts

how flu spreads
Dana Burns, NP, reports seeing many cases of the flu and colds this month.

This month, Dana Burns, NP, has seen a ton of influenza and viral syndrome at Lake Monticello Primary Care. “Viral syndrome” is another word for a cold or virus infection, where symptoms may differ in each individual.

How Does The Flu Spread?

According to the CDC, the flu spreads from infected person to infected person and can be passed up to six feet away. When infected people cough, sneeze or talk, flu-infested droplets land on someone else. The droplets can also be transferred by touching a surface that has been infected, but this is less common.

“Masks can be helpful but germs can still get through them,” Burns explains. “They help to at least decrease viral transmission and are also a helpful, visible symbol to remind others to keep their distance from you if you are sick.”

Burns emphasizes that since there is no one single way to protect against the flu, you should be sure to:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Routinely clean surfaces
  • Wash your hands
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing

How Long Is Someone Contagious?

The CDC says that the adults can spread the influenza virus one day before symptoms appear and up to a week after the onset of illness. Younger children and those with compromised immune systems may be contagious for longer.

Flu Symptoms? Find a Local Doctor

Take flu symptoms to a doctor immediately: Find a primary care provider near you.

If you have been diagnosed with the flu, healthcare providers ask that you remain at home or away from large groups of people until your fever has been gone for 24 hours without the help of medication.

Treating the Flu

The flu is typically treated with Tamiflu, and Burns has seen positive outcomes with this approach. Tamiflu should be started within the first 72 hours of illness, so she recommends coming in as early as symptoms show up. Unfortunately, the busy flu season has created a nationwide shortage of influenza testing kits, so for the past two weeks, Lake Monticello Primary Care has been diagnosing people by clinical presentation.

“An interesting trend we are seeing is the population that was immunized may still be getting sick but is presenting with less intense versions of viral syndrome,” Burns says.

The Germwatch series provides information on what’s going around in our community as well as popular reasons for primary care visits.

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