How Germs are Spread

The main way that illnesses like colds and the flu are spread is from person to person, via respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This is called “droplet spread.” This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air and are deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Sometimes germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from a person nearby. 

Germs can also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk, and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands. We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desks.

How to Stop the Spread of Germs
In a nutshell, take care to:

  • Cover your mouth and nose
  • Clean your hands often

Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

The “Happy Birthday” song helps keep your hands clean?
We recommend that when you wash your hands—with soap and warm water—that you wash for 20 seconds. That’s about the same time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice!

When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used.