How Lou Got the Flu

red-haired girl sick in bed holding a globe with New York labeled

Hi, I'm Louise. Most people call me Lou and I live in New York. I feel pretty rotten right now. I have a sore throat, a cough, and achy muscles. My doctor said I caught the flu — that's short for influenza , a type of virus.

My friends Sue, Hugh, and Stu also caught it. I hear it's going around, and not just to people whose names rhyme!

My dad's giving me lots of stuff to drink and is making sure I sleep a lot. I asked my doctor, "Where does the flu come from?" He said, "Scientists think this flu strain comes from ducks on a farm."


How can a virus travel around the world?

You'll see, my friend, you'll see...
Six months ago on a farm far away, there was a duck that carried a flu virus in its body.


So, how did the virus travel from the duck   me ?


a pig


a tick

Nope. Try again!
a duck near the pigs on a farm
You got it!

ANSWER: a pig

Oink! Oink! It was a pig.

A farmer named Ben raises pigs. When the duck flew over Ben's farm and pooped on the ground, a pig sniffed the duck virus into his body.

People can't become infected with bird viruses. But pigs can be infected with both bird and human flu viruses. So if the flu virus spreads to pigs, it can easily mutate into a kind that can be spread to humans.

Question 1 of 6

So, how did the virus travel from the duck   pig   me ?


a pig became dinner


a pig touched the farmer

Nope. Try again!
farmer hugging a little pig
You got it!

ANSWER: a pig touched the farmer

The farmer touched a sick little pig.

The pig spread the virus to many of the other pigs on the farm. One day, the farmer touched one of the sick baby pigs and — you guessed it — Ben caught the flu virus.

Question 2 of 6

So, how did the virus travel from the duck   pig   farmer   me ?


the farmer got bitten by a mosquito


the farmer sneezed on money

Nope. Try again!
farmer sneezing on a woman's ice cream cone
You got it!

ANSWER: the farmer sneezed on money

ACHOOO! The farmer sneezed on money.

Ben was sick for a few days. Later, he went to the market to sell ice cream. A college student named Eloise bought some red bean ice cream from him. When he was giving her change, the farmer accidentally sneezed on the money.

"I'm so sorry," said Ben, "I'm just getting over the flu." "I hope you feel better soon," said Eloise, and took a bite of the ice cream.

Question 3 of 6

So, how did the virus travel from the duck   pig   farmer   shopper   me ?


the shopper shared a soda with a friend


the shopper went out with wet hair

Nope. Try again!
two friends drinking from the same drink with straws
You got it!

ANSWER: the shopper shared a soda with a friend

The shopper shared a soda with a friend. Slurp!

The next night, Eloise was studying for an exam with her friend Maria. While they were studying, Eloise and Maria got thirsty. Since there was only one soda, they shared it. Here's the tricky thing about the flu virus and why it's so contagious — you can pass it to someone even before you have symptoms!

Question 4 of 6

So, how did the virus travel from the duck   pig   farmer   shopper   student  me ?


the student hugged my dog


the student sneezed near me

Nope. Try again!
woman sneezing on young girl
You got it!

ANSWER: the student sneezed near me

ACHOOO! The student sneezed near me.

The next week, Maria flew home from college. Guess what? She lives on our street. Maria came over for dinner. She still had some sniffles from the flu but was feeling better. My dad made his famous pepper steak, but he used too much pepper and when he served Maria...

ACHOOO! She sneezed right next to me. And that's how I got the flu from a duck on a farm far away.

You see, viruses are like microscopic hitchhikers. They can travel great distances, going quickly from person to person and even around the world. And they don't need passports!

Question 5 of 6
young girl running outside with dog

So, what do you think I can do to prevent getting and spreading the flu in the future?


wash my hands often with soap


get a flu shot every year


if I'm sick, sneeze and cough intro a tissue


all of the above

Nope. Try again!
You got it!

ANSWER: all of the above

All of these would be helpful!

Get a Flu Shot Every Year, Wash My Hands Often With Soap, and Sneeze and Cough Into a Tissue.

Question 6 of 6
Good job. Well done! You rock! Amazing! You got out of 6 right on the first guess.

3 Simple Ways to Prevent Getting and Spreading the Flu

boy hiking in the woods and sneezing

Sneeze and Cough Into a Tissue
When you cough, sneeze, or talk, droplets of saliva and mucus can travel from your nose or mouth into the air and then to others. And if you're sick, the flu virus travels with them! Coughing and sneezing into a tissue and then throwing it away will help prevent spreading the flu. And if you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands.

girl washing her hands at the sink

Wash My Hands Often With Soap
Soap and warm water will get rid of the viruses and germs that stick to the oil on your hands. And if you use plain old soap instead of antibacterial soap or gel, it won't get rid of healthy microbes that live on your skin!

doctor giving a flu shot to a boy

Get a Flu Shot Every Year
Some infectious diseases, like smallpox and polio, can be prevented with a single vaccination. But influenza is trickier to outsmart because this virus can easily mutate. Even if your body has built up antibodies for one kind of flu, it doesn't mean that it has protection against all kinds. Each year scientists try to predict what type of flu viruses will be traveling around the world. Sometimes the scientists create the right vaccine and many people are protected. Other times they're wrong and the flu wins.

Image Credits:

All illustrations by Daryll Collins