1. A single sneeze can spray droplets infested with bacteria and viruses as far as 3 feet.
2. Because viruses must invade cells of a living host to reproduce, their life spans outside are generally shorter than that of bacteria, which reproduce on their own.
3. Any sort of nutrients-food particles, skin cells, blood, mucus-helps microbes thrive, which is why your kitchen sponge is a breeding ground.
4. According to Philip Tierno, director of microbiology and diagnostic immunology at the New York University School of Medicine, at room temperature and normal humidity, Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacteria found in ground beef that causes food poisoning, can live for a few hours to a day.
5. The calicivirus, the culprit of the stomach flu, lives for days or weeks.
6. HIV dies nearly instantly upon exposure to sunlight.
7. Other microbes form exoskeleton-like spores as a defense mechanism, like the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which is responsible for toxic shock syndrome, food poisoning, and wound infections. In this way, they can withstand temperature and humidity extremes. Tierno says this bacterial spore can survive for weeks on dry clothing using sloughed skin cells for food.
8. The Bacillus anthracis, the anthrax bacteria, can also form spores and survive tens to hundreds of years.
9. Hepatitis B virus may survive up to a week.
10. Flu viruses tend to live longer on surfaces than cold viruses do.
11. It's generally believed that cold and flu viruses live longer on nonporous surfaces — such as plastic, metal or wood — than they do on porous surfaces — such as fabrics, skin or paper.
12. A person can spread the flu starting one day before he or she feels sick. Adults can continue to pass the flu virus to others for another three to seven days after symptoms start. Children can pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. Some persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons can still spread the virus to others.
13. The best way to avoid becoming infected with a cold or flu is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer.
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