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National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

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Step Up to Prevent Flu

You can reduce the spread of flu this year. Protect yourself, your family, your neighborhood, and the VA community from the flu. “Step up” to prevent flu!

Step 1: Get your flu shot

Everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year. Getting a flu shot is the best way to slow the spread of flu. Learn more about flu vaccination.

Step 2: Know how flu is spread

When a person with flu sneezes, coughs, talks, or laughs, flu virus can spread into the air as droplets. The droplets can spread to people and surfaces up to 6 feet away. Flu virus can spread to your hands if you touch anything that has the virus on it. If you then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you might get the flu.

People can spread flu to others about 1 day before they feel sick and up to 5 days after getting sick.

Step 3: Know the symptoms of flu

Symptoms include a fever (100°F or higher), body and muscle aches, headache, feeling tired or weak, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, nausea and vomiting. Find out more about flu, including the differences between colds and flu.

Step 4: Clean your hands and surfaces around you

Clean hands often by washing with soap and water or by using hand sanitizers. Clean hands before eating or preparing food, before and after caring for someone who is sick, after coughing or sneezing, and after using the bathroom.

Clean surfaces that are touched often such as phones, faucets, light switches, countertops, door and cabinet handles, keyboard and mouse, and TV remotes. Flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours.

Step 5: Cover your coughs and sneezes

Use clean tissues and discard after each use. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve when you don't have a tissue.

Always clean your hands after coughing or sneezing.

Step 6: Stay home when sick

Because flu spreads easily from person to person, stay home when you are sick. Studies show you are most contagious and likely to spread flu virus to others for at least 5 days after your first symptoms start and at least 48 hours after your last fever.

Treat flu by getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and using medicines that reduce fevers. Find out more about treating flu and when to seek medical care.

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