There are very few diseases that can be transmitted through the air. Airborne diseases linger in dust particles and respiratory droplets, which are eventually inhaled by other people. In fact, you don’t need to be in the same room as a sick person to contract an airborne disease.
How Airborne Transmission Works
Airborne diseases are bacteria or viruses that are most commonly transmitted through small respiratory droplets. These droplets are expelled when someone with the airborne disease sneezes, coughs, laughs, or otherwise exhales in some way. These infectious vehicles can travel along air currents, linger in the air, or cling to surfaces, where they are eventually inhaled by someone else.
Airborne transmission can occur over relatively long distances and spans of time. If you go into the bathroom that someone coughed in minutes before, it could be a danger. This makes it possible for airborne diseases to infect larger numbers of people and more difficult to determine the causes due to a lack of person-to-person contact.
Airborne transmission has varying capabilities. Airborne diseases can travel distances greater than 6 feet and remain infectious in the air from minutes to hours. This largely depends on the type of ventilation and preventative measures inside the building.
Few diseases are predominantly airborne. Most diseases that spread through the air are also contagious through larger respiratory droplet transmission. This type of infection occurs when people are within 6 feet of each other.
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases, affecting up to 90% of the people close to a person with the disease. It’s a virus that lives in the mucus of the nose and throat and is spread through coughing and sneezing. The measles virus survives for up to 2 hours in the air once the infected person leaves an area.
Measles symptoms. Symptoms show within 1-2 weeks after infection. Symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Red and watery eyes