Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can I get a regular flu from checking books out of the library?"
I am a 21 year old germaphobe. I'm afraid to check out books. What should I do?
The influenza virus is present through most of the calendar year, increasing in the late fall and persisting through the spring, although, theoretically, one could acquire influenza at any time of the year. However, the influenza virus lives in and is passed through respiratory droplets (sputum or spit), which is passed from person-to-person through close contact. Outside of a person's mouth or lungs, these droplets only remain transmissible for a few seconds, so it requires a nearby sneeze, cough, or direct skin-to-skin contact by unwashed hands. To acquire influenza from an inanimate object like a book is nearly impossible. It would require that someone sneezed on it seconds beforehand, and then you touched the book. Respiratory droplets on a book would dry up within seconds, and the influenza virus would be unable to survive beyond that. Your thought that you are a "germaphobe" and your fear of checking out books from the library may be part of a larger problem. If your "germaphobe" habits are limiting your day-to-day functioning, tasks, work life, or relationships, you may benefit from an evaluation from a psychologist or psychiatrist, and medicines that can help this condition.
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