Colds and flu

Updated 04 October 2017

How does flu spread?

Find out how the influenza virus spreads between people, attaches to objects and even floats in the air ready to infect the next host.

Here are three common ways the influenza virus spreads: 

1. An infected person sheds mucus from their nose and throat and the flu virus is aerosolised by speaking, sneezing and coughing. You breathe the virus into your respiratory system.

2. It can be left on hands, surfaces and objects such as handkerchiefs. These items then come into contact with your nose or mouth. This is possibly the most important way the virus is spread, and all must be done to prevent it from spreading this way. The importance of handwashing cannot be stressed enough.

3. You can be infected via the air, or via an infected object touching your nose or mouth.

The highest rates of infection are seen in children in créches and schools.


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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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