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. Doctor Cooper 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 making sure I sleep a lot. I asked Doctor Cooper, "Where does the flu come from?" He said, "Scientists think this flu strain comes from ducks in China."

How can a virus virus travel around the world?

You'll see, my friend, you'll see...

Six months ago on a farm in China, there was a duck that carried a flu virus in its body. The duck was never lonely because over a billion ducks live in China. More than a billion people live there, too.

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

Oink! Oink! It was a pig.

Min Peng, a farmer in China, raises pigs. When the duck flew over Min Peng'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.

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

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 — Min Peng caught the flu virus.

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

ACHOOO! The farmer sneezed on the money.

Ming Peng was sick for a few days. Later, he went to the market to sell ice cream. Mei-li Yuan 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 Min Peng, "I'm just getting over the flu." "I hope you feel better soon," said Mei-li Yuan, and took a bite of the ice cream.

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

The shopper shared a soda with a friend. Slurp!

The next night, Mei-li Yuan was studying for an exam with her friend Maria, who is from the United States. While they were studying, Mei-li Yuan 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!

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

ACHOOO! The student sneezed near me.

The next week, Maria flew home to visit her family. Guess what? They live on our street. Maria came over to visit and to show us pictures from China. 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 in China.

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!

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


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 of flu. The flu virus is like a moving target. So 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 and many people are protected. Other times they're wrong and the flu wins.


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!


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.