How long does the flu virus live on surfaces?

The flu virus can live on surfaces like doorknobs and tables for up to 48 hours. Routine cleaning can help prevent the spread of influenza.

The flu virus can live on surfaces like doorknobs and tables — and potentially infect people — for 48 hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Flu viruses are relatively fragile, according to the CDC. Standard cleaning with a disinfectant will remove or kill them. Aggressive measures such as wiping down walls or frequent use of room deodorizers with disinfectants are not necessary and can cause irritation and aggravate asthma.

Heat above 167 F (water boils at 212 F) will kill the flu virus. Common household cleaning products containing any chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, soap or detergent, iodine-based antiseptics or alcohols will kill the flu virus.

If you are caring for someone with the flu, be sure to wash your hands after touching the patient as well as after cleaning up tissues or laundry.

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How the Flu Spreads

People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or can be inhaled into the lungs.

Less often, a person may touch a surface contaminated with the flu virus then touch his or her mouth, nose or eyes.

Someone with the flu is most contagious for the first three to four days after they become sick. That’s the peak, though. Adults can infect others a day before symptoms are apparent and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.

Young children and people with weakened immune systems are contagious for longer.

More flu coverage

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