Is the flu airborne?

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is most commonly spread when a person comes into contact with droplets or aerosols that contain the mucus of an infected person.

Some studies suggest that about half of flu cases may be airborne. Knowing how the flu spreads and understanding how the flu spreads can help you prevent infection and minimize your risk.

This article will discuss how the flu is spread, including how long it is contagious and the flu incubation period. It will explain the difference between droplet and airborne transmission and how this might affect transmission.

Influenza Transmission Explained

Influenza is a virus that spreads most often when someone comes into contact with the droplets of an infected person. These droplets are produced when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes, spreading the infected mucus up to 6 feet around them.

how bacteria spread

Droplets and Aerosols

Droplets are heavy. They usually sink to the ground within about 6 feet of an infected person. This means that if you stay more than 6 feet apart, you are less likely to be infected. Scientists believe that most flu transmission occurs when a person inhales these droplets or enters their eyes, nose or mouth.

Aerosols are produced by coughing or sneezing, just like droplets. However, they are smaller and lighter, so they stay in the air longer.

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If the flu is airborne, that means the contagious virus can spread even if you are more than 6 feet away. Researchers still don’t know how much of the flu is airborne, but one study suggests that at least half of that transmission happens through airborne particles.

Airborne Viruses: An Overview

through human contact

When you’re near someone, you’re more likely to come into contact with their respiratory secretions, such as mucus from the upper airways. When these respiratory droplets or other bodily fluids land on the skin, the flu virus can also be present on the skin of someone infected with the virus. When you come into contact with these fluids, you can be exposed to the flu virus and catch the flu.

on the surface

Sometimes the flu spreads when you touch a surface that has the virus on it and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, allowing the virus to enter your body. This is called surface transport. The flu can live on hard objects such as doorknobs for up to 48 hours. It has a shorter survival time on cloth and other porous surfaces.

How long is the flu contagious?

when you are contagious

You may develop symptoms 1 to 4 days after exposure to the virus. You can start spreading the flu the day before symptoms appear. You can be contagious for up to 7 days, but you are most likely to infect others within the first 3 to 4 days of your illness.

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How long will the flu last?

ahead of the flu

The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot and practice good hygiene, including frequent hand washing. To reduce your chances of getting the flu:

  • Vaccination once a year
  • wash hands frequently
  • Minimize contact with infected people as much as possible
  • stay home when sick
  • avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes, especially in public
  • Leading an overall healthy lifestyle

How to Prevent Stomach Flu

Flu Season and COVID Prevention

During the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza cases have decreased dramatically, especially during the 2020-2021 flu season.

The researchers believe this is largely due to COVID-related precautions, including social distancing, affecting flu rates. Influenza rates for the 2021-2022 season have not been finalized, but may rise as COVID precautions are lifted.

You really need a flu shot this year, experts say


Influenza is mainly spread through the air through aerosols. These tiny particles are released when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks and can stay in the air for a long time. However, studies have shown that some transmission of the flu occurs through contact with infected surfaces.

VigorTip words

Scientists are still working out how exactly the flu spreads. However, they know that certain precautions — including vaccinations and frequent hand washing — can reduce the risk of flu transmission. Many of the same precautions people take to prevent the spread of COVID can also reduce your risk of spreading or catching the flu.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is flu transmission similar to COVID?

    Both the flu and COVID are viruses that are spread through contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected person. However, COVID appears to spread more easily than the flu, including through aerosols. In addition, people with Covid-19 may be contagious for longer before they start showing symptoms, which could lead to transmission.

  • Does the CDC classify influenza as an airborne virus?

    The CDC maintains that most flu transmission is through droplets, which come within 6 feet of an infected person. However, studies have shown that up to 50% of flu transmission is through aerosols.

  • How contagious is the flu after vaccination?

    Getting the seasonal flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting the flu by 40%-60%, depending on the year. It can also reduce your risk of being hospitalized or dying from the flu. Unless a healthcare provider recommends otherwise, all Americans 6 months or older can get the flu shot to reduce the risk of getting the flu.