Airborne Diseases

Airborne diseases are difficult to control. They can be threatening because they can be transmitted to anyone through the air. These diseases will travel on dust particles or be passed through the air by sneezing, coughing or even laughing and talking. Close contact with someone who is sick with an airborne disease or someone who simply carries such a disease can cause contamination. Below are the causes, symptoms and treatment options for major airborne diseases.



Common Airborne Diseases

Tuberculosis

Causes

Exposure to mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria through respiratory droplets from sneezing, coughing, etc. can cause tuberculosis. Those with weaker immune systems, like babies and the elderly, are at higher risk.

Symptoms

Coughing up blood and phlegm, difficulty breathing, wheezing, fever, fatigue, sweating, chest pain, weight loss and breathing issues

Treatments

Fluids and rest as well as an antibiotic regimen are required to cure tuberculosis.
Some antibiotic treatments may last for up to 6 months.

Influenza (flu)

Causes

Exposure to the influenza virus by coming in physical contact with those already infected or inhaling airborne particles.

Symptoms

Fever, congestion, sore throat, fatigue and issues in the lungs.

Treatments

The best defense is to receive annual flu vaccines as well as keeping away from those with the virus.
Wash your hands after coming in contact with possible virus carriers. Many people prefer hand sanitizer to prevent spread of viruses.

Measles

Causes

Contact with a person who has the measles or contact with particles from their sneeze or cough.

Symptoms

Coughing, fever, muscle pain, skin sensitivity, sore throat, red eyes, white bumps in the mouth and bumpy rashes all over the skin.

Treatments

There are no specific treatments for measles, but you can speed recovery with lots of rest, fluids and the use of a humidifier.
You can also take acetaminophen to manage pain and discomfort.

Chickenpox

Causes

Chickenpox is highly contagious and can be passed through physical contact with a rash on the skin or through inhaling airborne particles.

Symptoms

The most common symptom is an itchy, blister-like rash. Fever and sore throats can also accompany this disease.

Treatments

Vaccination is the best preventative treatment.
Those with previous exposure should be safe as they have built up immunity to chickenpox.

Mumps

Causes

A viral infection passed through touch or airborne particles.

Symptoms

Mumps affects the parotid glands which are salivary glands just below your ears. Swelling is a common symptom and hearing loss can occur in very severe cases.

Treatments

Vaccination is key for prevention as there are still many cases of outbreaks in the U.S. and around the world.
Rest and fluids will help speed recovery.

Meningitis

Causes

There are two types of meningitis. Viral meningitis has a number of causes from direct contact to insect bites. It is very rarely a serious disease.

Bacterial meningitis is caused by exposure to various strains of airborne bacteria that, when left untreated, can cause brain damage or even death. Prolonged exposure to respiratory secretions is a main cause for either strain.

Symptoms

Bacterial meningitis escalates quickly and mimics the symptoms of flu. The symptoms come on incredibly fast and include fever, headache, delirium, a stiff neck, nausea and even seizures.

Treatments

Immunization is a must to prevent bacterial meningitis.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial meningitis once it has already attacked the system.
Antibiotics will not treat viral meningitis, so vaccines are needed. Medical supervision is required while the virus runs its course.

Anthrax

Causes

The most common cause is direct inhalation through the mouth or nose of anthrax spores. This creates the potential for mass dispersal through explosions or anthrax spores sent through packaging. These spores can also cause anthrax by going through cuts on the skin or ingestions of infectious materials.

Symptoms

Nausea and flu-like symptoms are the most common. Since there are three different kinds of anthrax the symptoms tend to vary between each one. Inhalation anthrax is the most difficult to diagnose as it possesses symptoms common in other, less serious diseases like coughing, sore throat and fever.

Treatments

Antibiotics are used to treat anthrax as it can be a very serious disease.
Vaccines are also given to those who are at risk of exposure such as military personnel and scientists or medical researchers.

How to Prevent Airborne Disease

1. Vaccination

Airborne diseases can be avoided and prevented by getting vaccinated. For example, many countries administer flu shots every year (usually in the winter months, during flu and cold season) to avoid influenza epidemics. Many strains of airborne illnesses can develop so vaccines often need to be changed and updated.

Often, prevention can be as simple as having been exposed to these diseases and building up immunity to them. This is the case with many who contracted chickenpox as a child and can now avoid catching the disease again. However, some diseases have many strains and it is virtually impossible to become immune to all of them.

2. Avoiding contact

Another common way to prevent airborne illness is avoiding contact with infected persons. Those who are infected can take precaution and isolate themselves until they are well. This can mean that they may need to stay home from work or school, or live in an area of their house that is isolated from others. For those living under the same roof, masks should be worn around infected persons to form a barrier and prevent the spread of the disease. If masks and isolation are not practical, an infected person should take care to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing and the ventilation in the home should be increased.

 
 
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