How Long Can Flu Linger on Surfaces?

Germs are everywhere, and it’s no secret that they can linger on surfaces. But when it comes to the flu, how long can it last on surfaces? The answer to this question isn’t quite as simple as you might think. There are a variety of factors that can impact how long the flu virus can survive outside of the body. In this article, we’ll explore those factors and provide you with the information you need to protect yourself against the flu.

The Basics of the Flu Virus

Before we dive into the question of how long the flu virus can survive on surfaces, let’s discuss the basics of the virus itself. The flu, or influenza, is a respiratory illness that is caused by the influenza virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu spreads from person to person primarily through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

The flu can also be spread by touching a surface or object that has been contaminated with the virus and then touching your own mouth, nose, or eyes. This is why it’s important to practice good hygiene habits like washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face.

How Long Can the Flu Survive on Surfaces?

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter. How long can the flu virus survive on surfaces? The answer to this question can vary depending on a variety of factors:

  • The type of surface
  • The temperature and humidity of the environment
  • The amount of virus that was originally on the surface
  • The strain of the flu virus

Hard Surfaces

In general, the flu virus can survive on hard surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for up to 48 hours. However, this can vary depending on the factors we mentioned earlier. For example, if the surface is porous, the virus may not survive as long.

It’s important to note that the amount of virus that was originally on the surface can impact how long it can survive. A surface that was heavily contaminated with the virus will likely have a higher viral load, which can increase the survival time.

Fabric and Soft Surfaces

When it comes to fabric and soft surfaces like couches and pillows, the flu virus typically can’t survive for very long. According to the CDC, the virus can survive on these surfaces for up to 12 hours.

How to Protect Yourself from the Flu Virus on Surfaces

Knowing how long the flu virus can survive on surfaces is important, but what can you do to protect yourself from it? Here are a few tips:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, and countertops.
  • Stay home if you’re sick to avoid spreading the virus to others.

Common Questions About the Flu Virus on Surfaces

  • Q: Can you catch the flu from a surface?
    • A: It is possible to catch the flu from a surface that has been contaminated with the virus, especially if you touch the surface and then touch your face. However, the primary way the virus spreads is through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
  • Q: How long does the flu virus survive on clothes?
    • A: The flu virus can survive on clothes for up to 12 hours. However, washing your clothes with hot water and detergent can kill the virus.
  • Q: Can the flu virus survive on money?
    • A: Yes, the flu virus can survive on money for up to 48 hours. It’s a good idea to wash your hands after handling money or use hand sanitizer to reduce your risk of catching the virus.

Conclusion

Now you know how long the flu virus can survive on surfaces and how to protect yourself against it. Remember to practice good hygiene habits like washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces to reduce your risk of catching the flu.

References

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 10). How Flu Spreads. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 28). Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html
  • Jefferson T, Del Mar CB, Dooley L, Ferroni E, Al-Ansary LA, Bawazeer GA, van Driel ML, Foxlee R, Rivetti A. Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses: systematic review. BMJ 2020;369:m1845.

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