Our collective fear raises an interesting question: Is there science-backed “safe” distance we should keep from someone we presume is carrying the contagious virus? There is a specific answer, believe it or not!
According to the CDC, a person sick with influenza can infect anyone who is within a six-foot radius. In fact, the CDC says, “Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with a flu cough, sneeze or talk,” adding that “These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.”
If you are not grossed out enough by this, consider that the flu is a tricky virus that actually bides time. In fact, according to the William Schaffner, M.D., a flu specialist from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, you can be sick for up to two whole days, with the flu without even knowing you have it. He adds, “If I get infected, I can spread the flu for 24 to 48 hours before I get sick,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “That’s in the virus’s favor. It makes it easier to spread.”
Of course, this is terrible news if you live in a major city and you use public transport. Nevertheless, regardless of where you are, the best thing you can do to prevent yourself from catching the virus that is reported to kill as many as 12,000 Americans each year is head to the pharmacy and get a flu shot.
This will protect against the virus. Once vaccinated, you can prevent the flu by frequently washing your hands, wiping down gym equipment before using it and avoiding contact with people who you already know are sick. And, be sure you stay at least six feet away!