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Division of Disease Control

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Stop the Spread of Germs

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year. Good health habits are also very important and help stop the spread of germs.

How Germs Spread

The flu is caused by a virus that infects the nose, throat and lungs.  Germs can spread through the air when a person with the flu coughs or sneezes.  Also, germs can be spread when a person who is sick coughs or sneezes on their hands and then touches something (like a doorknob, desk or handrail). If someone else then touches that thing and then touches their face, they can get sick. We know that some germs can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, desks and other common items.

How to Stop the Spread of Germs


Cover your cough
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away.  Cover your cough or sneeze with your hands if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands every time you cough or sneeze.

Clean your hands often
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 15 to 20 seconds – that’s about the same time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice!  It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps remove germs.
  • When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used.  If using a gel, rub the gel in your hands until they are dry. The gel doesn't need water to work.  The alcohol in the gel kills germs that cause colds and the flu.

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before and after preparing or eating food
  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing diapers or helping a child use the toilet
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After handling an animal or animal waste
  • After handling garbage
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth

Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Stay home when you are sick

If you are sick, stay home from work, school and running errands (unless you need to seek medical care).  Stay home until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100°F).  Avoid close contact with others.  This will help keep others from catching your illness.

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