People with influenza are generally infectious for 5 days after symptoms first appear, though children and those with weakened immune systems may be infectious for longer. Influenza virus is spread easily from person to person through small droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Droplets can settle onto surfaces (such as door handles and hand rails), and infect other people when they touch those surfaces.
Stop the spread of infection
If you become unwell with flu-like symptoms there are several things you can do to help stop spreading the flu to others. These include:
- washing your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser for 20 to 30 seconds
- cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or your inner elbow when and wash your hands afterwards
- discard used tissues immediately into a bin
- avoid close contact with people who are sick
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- stay away from childcare, school, work and other social activities until you are well.
Practise good hand hygiene
By washing your hands regularly you can protect yourself, your family and the community from getting sick. Washing your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitiser kills viruses that may be on your hands. Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly soiled.
Washing your hands property takes about 20 to 30 seconds. Follow these steps:
- wet your hands
- put soap on your hands
- rub soap over your hands and don’t forget to scrub between your fingers, under your nails and the top of your hands
- rinse your hands under water
- dry your hands.
See our posters:
Flu, influenza-like illness (ILI), and viral gastroenteritis (‘gastro’) infections occur across the ACT community, especially during the winter months. Elderly people, particularly those living in aged care facilities, can be more vulnerable to these infections due to underlying medical conditions or medications that suppress their immune systems. A flu, ILI or gastro infection in an elderly resident may lead to functional decline, hospitalisation, and in some cases death.
Aged care facilities can be challenging environments for infection control due to staff, residents and visitors moving throughout the facility and interacting with each other, as well as residents sharing communal meals and other group activities.
It is important to be proactive to minimise transmission of ILI, flu and gastro in aged care settings. For ways to protect elderly residents, see the ‘preventing spread of infections in aged care’ section below.
Occasionally, outbreaks of ILI, flu and gastro occur in aged care facilities. When outbreaks occur, the facility is required to report these to ACT Health and implement outbreak precautions.
For further information about managing outbreaks in aged care facilities, please see our influenza-like illness outbreaks page.
Preventing the spread of infections in aged care
Family and friends should not visit an aged care facility when they are unwell with any respiratory or gastro symptoms. Residents with symptoms will need to be isolated to prevent spreading the infection to other residents in the facility and unwell staff should be excluded from work (see the Influenza-like illness outbreaks section for further details).
Cough and sneeze etiquette as well as hand hygiene should be promoted to residents, staff and visitors all year and especially during the cooler months. The following posters can be displayed around aged care facilities: