Airborne diseases can be of many types, having different levels of severity. However, there is one thing that can help us to combat them all, which is knowledge about airborne diseases. Let us know about the types of airborne diseases, their symptoms, preventions and other important facts.
What are the causes of airborne diseases?
Airborne diseases are caused due to the spread of microorganisms through the air. Pathogens such as fungi, bacteria and viruses cause these airborne diseases. At first, these pathogens infect a human and he/she transmits it into the air while talking, coughing or sneezing, which then result in a serious airborne disease.
The pathogens transmit through organisms and contaminate surfaces or remain suspended in the air. One interesting fact about airborne diseases is that they can affect both humans and animals. Besides, airborne diseases are more dangerous than other diseases as they can spread easily and are harder to get cured.
How do airborne diseases spread?
The pathogens like viruses, bacteria and fungi cling to the moisture droplets, dust particles, pollen, etc. present in our atmosphere and travel to the human body while breathing. The microorganisms can also spread through body fluids such as phlegm and mucus. Once these microorganisms are inside our body, they start to multiply, making the airborne disease worse.
In the spread of airborne diseases, climate plays a vital role. Airborne diseases are spread at an increasing rate in an environment where the climate is humid and hot. This is because high humidity advances the growth of aerosol, which are the suspended solid particles or liquid droplets present in the air, and they get easily deposited in our respiratory tract. If the environment is less humid there will be a loss of water, which makes it difficult for the microorganism to stay active in the air.
10 most dangerous airborne diseases
In the current situation, we all are much aware of the Covid-19 virus infection. But do you know, the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes this type of airborne disease? Covid-19 or the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan city of China in late 2019. Within a very short period, the virus spread extensively throughout the world and became a global pandemic. This airborne disease spreads through coughing, sneezing, and talking as well as lands over different surfaces. The common symptoms of Covid-19 are cough, fever, breathing problems, and fatigue. Doctors prescribe masks and hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of this virus.
We all have noticed that people often get sick with a common cold. Like other airborne diseases, microorganisms like Rhinovirus and other flu viruses cause the common cold. These bunches of microbes are more active in spring, summer and early fall, due to which we catch a common cold more often during these seasons. According to scientific research, an adult is vulnerable to a common cold twice or thrice a year, whereas children have more risk of getting this airborne disease.
It is a flu that causes infection in respiratory organs like the lungs, throat and nose. A highly contagious airborne disease, the influenza virus of three different types, A, B and C causes it. If influenza affects a person severely, he/she has a chance to get complications like pneumonia and it may even cause death. When a flu-infected person sneezes or coughs, the influenza virus spreads as droplets of respiratory fluids through the air. The symptoms of influenza can be a headache, fever, body ache, and fatigue.
The varicella-zoster virus causes the airborne disease chickenpox. The disease takes almost 21 days to develop fully within a person’s body after exposure. You can get chickenpox two or three days before the rash appears in the body. It is a common phrase that if you get chickenpox once, you will not get the disease twice in your lifetime. However, it is not medically proven. Chickenpox is a painful infection as painful shingles appear in the skin of the infected person and their scars remain for a long time.
It is one of the most contagious airborne diseases that can spread even before the symptoms appear. A virus from the Rubulavirus family called paramyxovirus causes mumps. Mostly, this disease lasts within the patient’s body for 16 to 18 days. The common symptoms of mumps are headache, malaise and myalgia. This airborne disease is very common among Americans. However, with vaccinations, doctors have controlled the transmission and reduced the disease by 99%.
A virus called morbillivirus causes measles, another dangerous airborne disease, which becomes most active during spring and winter. This disease is more common among children. The virus can remain active in the air or on metal surfaces for around two hours. As it infects a child, you can see rashes in his skin which may remain for four days. To prevent this airborne disease, children are vaccinated at a very early age.
Whooping cough, scientifically “Pertussis” is an airborne disease. A particular variety of bacteria known as Bordetella pertussis causes it. The bacteria infect the respiratory tract severely. It has three stages namely catarrhal, paroxysmal, and convalescent. In many cases, the infected person initially experiences a hacking cough, which after a few days results in high-pitched breathing making a “whoop” sound. Doctors have come up with vaccinations. They have proven successful to combat the disease.
Diphtheria is a dangerous airborne infection. A certain type of bacteria known as Corynebacterium diphtheriae causes it. The strains of the bacteria attach to the pharynx and then travel to the lungs. Diphtheria is very dangerous as it leads to difficulty in breathing, paralysis, heart failure and even death. For treating this airborne disease, researchers have developed vaccines which are applicable for people of all ages.
Neisseria meningitidis is a type of bacteria that causes the dangerous airborne disease meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis. The bacteria spreads through the throat or respiratory secretion. However, it does not spread easily. Close contact with meningitis infected people for a long time may transfer the diseases to others. The symptoms of meningitis are flu-like illnesses like headache, neck stiffness and fever. Through medication, surgery or by using breathing support, the disease can be cured.
Tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB is an airborne disease. It is a bacterial infection. However, this airborne disease takes time to spread. If you come in close contact with the infected person for a long time, you are vulnerable to this disease. TB does not spread easily, but if one gets infected with it, the consequences are severe. It may lead to damaged lungs and other organs. The only symptom of this disease is cough.
Diagnosis of Airborne Diseases
The above mentioned airborne diseases are diagnosed through saliva testing, which involves taking swabs from the throat. Some doctors also prefer blood tests and body fluid analysis for diagnosing airborne diseases.
Prevention of Airborne Diseases
Essentially, you can not eliminate these airborne diseases as you can easily transmit these through air or surfaces, and they affect the respiratory tract. However, you can prevent the effect and exposure to these microorganisms through vaccines and maintaining good hygiene.
Medical professionals take samples of the virus or bacteria that cause the airborne disease and prepare antidote vaccines. These vaccines are the most effective way to prevent such diseases. Currently, we can easily get vaccines for combating measles, flu, mumps, and chickenpox. Moreover, the vaccine for coronavirus is also available in different parts of the world.
Apart from vaccines, you can also prevent these dangerous pathogens from affecting you. You should wash hands often, use sanitizers, masks and tissues for coughing and sneezing. Thus, you must maintain hygiene which is also an important factor to reduce the risk of infection.
Treatment for Airborne Diseases
The treatments for airborne diseases are now available to doctors and physicians. Most importantly, all you need to do is that whenever you experience the symptoms of airborne diseases, consult a doctor. The doctor will give you medications and will advise plenty of rest.
Doctors often recommend antibiotics that help our immune system to fight against the pathogens that have entered our bodies. If the infection is severe, you may have to get admitted to the hospital for proper treatment and a fast cure.
FAQ about Airborne Diseases
Is Cold and Flu an airborne disease?
Answer: Firstly, Cold and Flu is a type of airborne disease, so better to avoid social contact to prevent transmission of the diseases.
How do we transmit bacteria that cause airborne disease?
Answer: Bacteria can get transmitted while sneezing, coughing and even talking.
What are the symptoms of an airborne disease?
Answer: Primarily, symptoms of airborne diseases can be like runny nose, sneezing, chill, cough, body ache, fatigue, etc.
How we prevent airborne diseases?
Answer: For preventing airborne diseases, we should use masks and maximise ventilation.
Who is most vulnerable to airborne diseases?
Answer: Pregnant women, cancer patients, or people, for instance, having lower immunity can easily catch airborne diseases.
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