The Flu Virus: How Long Can It Survive?

Estimates from the CDC show that the United States sees between 9 million and 45 million cases of influenza (flu). As of 2018, that equates to an estimated nationwide burden of $11.2 billion per year. Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to protect yourself, your workplace, and your coworkers from the hazards of flu season.

Remember that everyone you work with has a right to a safe and healthy workplace. The best ways to protect yourself and others from spreading the flu at work is to get vaccinated every year and stay home if you’re sick! Beyond that, it’s vital to maintain clean and sanitary conditions in your work and living spaces.

How Long Does the Flu Virus Live on Surfaces?

Once a flu virus leaves a host, it can survive outside of the body on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. However, it can only survive on tissues for 15 minutes, and only up to 5 minutes on bare hands before its level of contagiousness dramatically decreases. Flu viruses can also survive for several hours in airborne droplets of fluid, and lower temperatures enhance their survival rate.

Flu Virus Indoor Surface Survivability Compared to Other Diseases (Estimates)

  • Flu virus: 24 hours
  • Rhinovirus (Common Cold): 7 days
  • Streptococcus (Strep): 3 days to 6.5 months
  • Coronavirus: Up to 9 days
  • MRSA (Staph): Up to 3 weeks

Can You Catch the Flu by Touching a Contaminated Surface?

Yes, it is possible to catch the flu by touching a contaminated surface or object. When someone touches the object and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth, they could become infected. Ideally, sick people would never come into work. Unfortunately, that concept will always come with caveats and excuses from businesses and individuals until the end of time. Contagions will travel to or be carried into businesses, homes, and public places, and we have to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves.

What is the Flu?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu viruses come in four types, which doctors and scientists refer to as A, B, C, and D. Human influenza A and B viruses are the culprits of what we refer to annually as “flu season.” Of all varieties of the flu virus, A is the only type that’s known to cause global epidemics. Each type of flu virus can also have subtypes, of which there are many. However, the two that are routinely a problem for humans are A(H1N1) and A(H3N2).

A person infected by the flu virus can experience mild to severe symptoms. The Mayo Clinic writes that, depending on a patient’s age, overall health, and other factors, the flu can be fatal—especially in cases where the flu leads to severe pneumonia, meningitis, or a heart attack. The flu can also increase complications for people with diabetes.

Common Symptoms of the Flu:

  • Fever, chills, or feverish feelings
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

How Does the Flu Virus Spread?

 The most common way for the flu to spread is person-to-person transmission. The flu leaves an infected person’s body through tiny droplets of fluid, which are emitted by coughing, sneezing, and talking. Those droplets can travel up to approximately six feet through the air and land in or get inhaled by the mouths and nostrils of our friends, coworkers, loved ones, and strangers we pass throughout the day. While it might seem like common sense, it’s important to state that this process isn’t unique to the flu. Many illnesses and diseases spread the same way and can be fought with similar tactics.

Treating Flu-Contaminated Surfaces

While the risk of contamination can be scary, there are simple best practices and disinfecting processes we can all follow to minimize the spread of infectious disease. The CDC breaks down the treatment process into three areas: cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

Cleaning For The Flu

The cleaning process removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces and objects. It doesn’t necessarily eradicate the flu virus, but it does remove flu viruses from a surface to be safely disposed of, lowering their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.


Disinfecting means using a chemical or detergent to kill as many flu germs on a surface as possible, lowering the spread of infection.


Sanitizing a surface lowers the number of flu viruses present to a safe level as described by public health standards or requirements.

Surface Cleaning & Disinfecting

The flu is killed by simple detergents or diluted bleach, so standard routine cleaning and disinfecting strategies are effective. In the case of a workplace, a professional cleaning service such as Commercial Cleaning Corporation can be instrumental in ensuring the health and safety of everyone in your building.

Key areas and surfaces that should be routinely cleaned and disinfected include:

  • Rooms where food is consumed
  • Bathrooms
  • Machinery and equipment
  • Doorknobs
  • Floors
  • Countertops

Fight Back Against Flu Season

There are countless guides out there that give you a list of everything under the sun that could potentially protect you from germs. But the simplest and most consistent ways to avoid the flu are to get vaccinated, stay home when you’re sick, and practice clean and sanitary living and working habits. Turn to Commercial Cleaning Corporation for a higher standard of professional care. Schedule a free walkthrough today and let us help make your building a healthier, safer, and cleaner workplace for all.