The flu is an airborne virus. This means you can catch the flu just by breathing infected air.
However, there is no reason to be alarmed, because the virus does not survive for long in the air. Instead, it needs to rest on surfaces such as your hand, food, door handles, and other objects. The real danger is not in the virus floating around – it is in the virus that rests in convenient places where it can jump to your hand and then to your mouth.
How is the Flu Transmitted?
Imagine the following scenario. A person infected with influenza coughs, but covers her mouth with her hands. The virus is propelled from the throat through the hair and lands on her hands. There the virus can survive. A few minutes later, she pushes a door to enter a bar and a few viruses jump to that door. Then another costumer enters the very same bar, using his hands to push the same door and some of the viruses stick to his hand. Later on that day, the guy scratches his nose with his hand and voila – the virus jumps to this new host and infects him.
The hands are the main vehicle of transmission for the influenza virus. It is for this reason that the main recommendation to prevent H1N1 is to wash your hands frequently. Washing your hands does not kill the virus, because it cannot be killed. Instead, it washes the virus away (and it eventually dies on its own), leaving your hands clean and free of contaminants.
You Have to Avoid the Flu Virus
Because the objective is not to kill the virus, you don’t need to use disinfectants. A good soap will do the trick and it doesn’t kill native bacteria necessary for a healthy skin. Only use alcohol-based scrubs when you don’t have soap and water.
Another important measure to prevent transmission is using your arm to cover your mouth when you cough instead of your hands. Avoid touching things that many people touch and throughout the day avoid moving your hands to your mouth, eyes, or nose.
Avoiding the flu is not easy. But there is also no need to panic – though the virus is airborne it is rarely transmitted by air alone. Watch your hands and you will be safer than most.