Stop the spread of flu (influenza)


  • The flu virus is very easily spread from one person to another, usually when someone infected with the virus sneezes or coughs, releasing droplets that contain the virus into the air.
  • These droplets can be breathed in by others, or transferred to anyone who may touch a contaminated surface.
  • Flu can be prevented by vaccination as well as good hygiene practices.

What you can do

Help prevent the spread of flu and other infections by:

  • washing your hands regularly with soap and running water, particularly before preparing and eating food and after blowing your nose
  • coughing and sneezing into a tissue then throwing it away
  • covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing
  • keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth
  • not sharing cups, glasses and cutlery when eating or drinking
  • keeping your household surfaces clean.

Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough

The viruses that cause flu can spread from person to person via drops of fluid from the throat and nose of someone who is infected. When the person coughs, sneezes, laughs or talks, the infected droplets become airborne and may infect others.

If you need to sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or cough into your elbow. If you use your hands, it is a good idea to wash your hands after sneezing to wash off any infected droplets that can be transferred to others via a surface such as a door knob or handrail,

If you need to blow your nose, use a tissue and throw it away in a bin as soon as you have finished with it.

Washing your hands helps prevent infections

The simple act of washing your hands frequently using soap and running water very effectively reduces your chance of catching a respiratory tract infection like a cold or flu, or spreading it to others, especially young children. This will help to wash away viruses or bacteria that may be present on your hands or in your home.

Hand sanitisers, containing alcohol, can be used as an alternative to hand washing, particularly if you are out and about and hand washing facilities are not available.

Viruses and bacteria can be spread if you touch surfaces such as handrails or door knobs after going to the toilet and not washing your hands, or if you sneeze or cough into your hands and then touch a surface — that is why it is also important to wash your hands before eating or preparing food.

It is unclear whether using antiviral or antiseptic products as well as normal handwashing with soap is more effective than handwashing with soap alone.

Keep your home clean

Bacteria and viruses that cause infection can survive on household surfaces. Good hygiene practices also include using household cleaning products to clean the surfaces in your home that are touched or used by others, and that could be a potential source of infection.

Our immune systems are faced with bacteria and viruses every day, most of which won’t cause serious infection. Good hygiene practices will minimise the chance that any viruses or bacteria that that may be present on your hands or in your home will cause infection.

Find out more