Flu can spread easily – through the air, through contact with infected people or by touching a surface where the flu virus is present and then touching their face.1 About 1 in 3 people infected by the flu virus will not show any symptoms, but can still spread flu.2

How flu spreads

Flu is spread mostly in droplets of saliva and mucous that are dispersed through the air when a person coughs or sneezes.1,3 For a short period of time, these droplets can hang in the air, where other people breathe them in, or the droplets land on surfaces where the virus can exist for up to 24–48 hours.1 People can then pick up the virus by touching these surfaces and then touching their faces.1

Family walking in the countryside

The role of surfaces in spreading flu

Flu can be present for up to 24–48 hours on hands and surfaces.1 Everyday items at home and in public places can easily become contaminated with the flu virus, including food, door handles, remote controls, handrails, seats and surfaces on public transport, telephones and keyboards. Therefore, it's important to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.1

Talk to your GP, nurse or pharmacist if you would like further information or advice about how to help prevent catching or spreading flu.

  • 1. NHS Inform Scotland. Flu. Available at: [Last accessed November 2020].
  • 2. Vaccine Knowledge Project. Influenza (flu). Available at: [Last accessed November 2020].
  • 3. Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Influenza. Available at: [Last accessed November 2020].

Date of preparation: November 2020 | MAT-GB-2001686(v1.0)