Infection Control Guidance: Respiratory Viruses

At a glance

  • When respiratory viruses, such as flu, RSV and COVID-19 are spreading in the community, the risk for spread in healthcare settings increases as well.
  • As a healthcare worker, you have the infection control knowledge and tools to take action and protect patients, yourself and your coworkers from getting sick.
Healthcare worker with a mask, triaging a coughing child in a healthcare facility waiting room.
Infection Control Guidance: Respiratory Viruses

Summary of recommendations

  • Use masks and respirators to help decrease the spread of respiratory viruses.
  • Get vaccinated and encourage patients to do the same.
  • Practice physical distancing and implement screening and triage procedures.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.
  • Keep your hands clean.
  • Clean and disinfect. Make sure you read labels correctly when using disinfectants.
  • Check that the air handling in your facility is functioning as it should.

Recommendation details

Well-fitting facemasks or respirators covering a person's mouth and nose can prevent the spread of germs when people are breathing, talking, sneezing or coughing. Project Firstline signs are available to help facilities, when desired, encourage masking.

When a facility doesn’t require masking, they should still allow individuals to use a mask or respirator if they choose.

General metrics and data sources are available to help facilities determine how and when to implement broader use of masking, including:

Vaccines remain the best way to reduce your and your patients’ risk of getting sick and help stop the spread of viruses to others. If you or your patients do get flu or COVID-19, vaccines can make the illness shorter and less severe, reduce the amount of time spent away from work to recover and help avoid hospitalization.

Healthcare providers are the most trusted source of health information for patients. CDC has resources to help you talk with your patients about their risks for severe illness, so they can take the right steps to keep themselves and their families safe.

To learn more about the importance of vaccinating healthcare workers, check out CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog.

For more information on vaccine recommendations for respiratory viruses visit:

To limit the spread of germs, encourage physical distancing – particularly in shared spaces, such as waiting rooms. Consider:

  • Posting signs reminding people to notify facility staff at check in if they have respiratory symptoms.
  • Setting up triage stations that facilitate rapid screening of people for respiratory symptoms during times of higher community respiratory virus transmission.
  • Separating people with respiratory symptoms from others as soon as possible, and request that they wear a mask to limit spread.

Remember to practice respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette and encourage others to do the same. Provide masks, tissues and no-touch receptacles for tissue disposal at facility entrances, triage areas and waiting rooms.

Hands are a main way germs spread in healthcare settings. Cleaning your hands regularly with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water is a simple yet effective tool to stop the spread of germs.

Regular environmental cleaning is a necessity. Lobby areas, cafeterias and waiting rooms are all high-traffic spaces where germs can spread. It’s also important to disinfect reusable devices and not reuse disposable items. Review the infographic on How to Read a Disinfectant Label to help ensure you are using products correctly.

Make sure nothing is blocking air vents. Consult with your healthcare facilities management to ensure the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, system is working efficiently for good ventilation.


For weekly updates from CDC, visit CDC Respiratory Virus Updates.

For more information on infection control recommendations for healthcare settings, visit the Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.

For more information on seasonal influenza, visit Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Healthcare Settings.