You asked

Is it true that colds and flu are most contagious before symptoms appear?

Flu is a respiratory virus and there are three types of flu virus: A, B and C.  Types A and B are the most common ones that cause flu epidemics in communities and each type has various strains. This is why the flu virus is so easily spread, since people's immune systems need to adapt to each new strain they are exposed to.

When people first contract the flu virus, before the symptoms start appearing, it is not necessarily at it most contagious. Adults with flu are contagious for five days after the symptoms first appear and children are contagious for much longer. Some flu viruses remain contagious after the symptoms have gone. Very often care givers or teachers are exposed to an infected child and the virus is spread via the adult to other children. Because the virus is spread through the air and via physical contact, it is best to teach children good hygiene, like washing hands at regular intervals during the day.

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