Airborne Pathogens: What You Need To Know

Pathogens: You’ve likely heard the word but aren’t entirely sure what they are. Pathogens are disease-causing organisms that spread via direct physical contact, indirect contact by touching a contaminated surface, contact with infected bodily fluids or feces, and airborne particles. There are four primary types of pathogens: viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. 

In this blog, we’ll focus on airborne pathogens. These are disease-causing microbes that are released into the air by an infected or sick person via breathing, sneezing, coughing, talking, laughing, etc. These microbes enter the air as water droplets that evaporate and leave microscopic pathogens suspended in the air. When breathed in by other people, the pathogens enter and infect the new body. 

Do you really need to worry about airborne pathogens making their way to you? It seems so. Air currents can cause airborne pathogens to scatter. The distance they travel and how potent they are depend on environmental factors. This includes the air temperature, humidity, exposure to radiation (like sunlight), the pathogen’s weight, and its stability and structure.

Let’s get into all the details.

Examples of Common Diseases Caused by Airborne Pathogens

You now know what a pathogen is. But what types of pathogens are you likeliest to run into?

Certain airborne diseases are common and encompass a diverse range of illnesses, from the common cold to the most recent global pandemic. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, below are some examples of more common diseases caused by airborne pathogens.

  • COVID-19 — a highly infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which can result in mild to severe (even fatal) illness
  • Influenza — affects the lungs, nose, and throat, and may lead to life-threatening complications
  • Measles — causes cough, bodily rashes, fever, and runny nose
  • Tuberculosis — a bacterial illness that primarily infects the lungs
  • Mumps — a viral illness that leads to fever, body ache and headache, fatigue, low appetite, and the inflammation of glands
  • Varicella (chickenpox) — manifests as skin rashes on the face, scalp, and torso
  • The common cold

How Do Airborne Pathogens Affect Your Health?

The symptoms, effects, and severity of an airborne disease vary depending on the pathogen. But because these pathogens are in the air and breathed into the body, a significant portion of airborne diseases result in the inflammation of the airways. Specifically, they often affect the nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs. Here are some of the more common symptoms of airborne diseases:

  • Congestion and inflammation of airways in the nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs
  • Coughing, sore throat
  • Sneezing, runny nose
  • Inflamed glands
  • Headache, body ache, fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

It’s also worth noting that airborne diseases don’t only affect humans; they can affect animals too. One of the most common examples of airborne pathogens affecting animals is bird flu, also referred to as avian influenza.

The Prevention of Airborne Diseases

While it may be difficult to completely avoid airborne pathogens, there are ways to reduce your exposure to and risk of contracting airborne diseases.

  1. Avoid or lessen contact will those who are ill. If you have to meet them in person, practice social distancing by staying several feet apart from one another.
  2. Always engage in proper respiratory etiquette. This includes covering your nose and mouth with cloth or tissue when you cough or sneeze. If none are available, cough or sneeze into your elbow (not your hands!). 
  3. If you’re ill, stay at home or reduce your contact with other people. If you need to go out in public or meet with others in person, wear a face mask to reduce the chances of spreading the disease. 
  4. Practice proper handwashing, particularly after sneezing or coughing and before touching your face, food, or other people. This helps to mitigate the spread of pathogenic microbes that may be present on your hands, which can then be transferred onto surfaces or other people via physical contact. A good rule of thumb is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice to ensure that you wash your hands long enough. Get between each finger, and be sure to get the tops of your hands/nails, too.
  5. Implement environmental controls to minimize the presence and transmission of airborne pathogens. Keep your rooms properly ventilated to promote healthy airflow, given that airborne pathogens are generally weaker as they travel farther from the source.

While you can’t do a whole lot to control outside air pollution, there are other measures you can take to clean your indoor breathing air: Use an air purification system. 

Sans operations on a three-stage air filtration system to ensure maximum cleansing. Our air purifier is designed with a replaceable HEPA 13 filter — a medical-grade air filter that removes 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns in size, and 99.95% of particles that are 0.1 microns in size. Keep in mind that the COVID-19 virus is approximately 0.1 microns in diameter, while an average dust mite is about 200 microns.

The HEPA 13 filter is protected by a pre-filter, which captures larger pollutants like dust and hair. While the HEPA filter and pre-filter deal with solid and microscopic particles, the activated carbon filter neutralizes harmful and volatile gases. The three filters are sanitized by a built-in UV-C light, which kills pathogens and prevents them from growing on the filters (and also escaping back into your clean breathing air).

Airborne pathogens might pose a risk all around you, but rest assured that there are ways to stay healthy.

To keep yourself and your loved ones safe from airborne pathogens, equip your home with a trusted air purifier. Check out the Sans air purifier today.