There is a long list of illnesses that pose a risk to humans via airborne transmission. No matter your place of work, being aware of the harmful microorganisms (pathogens) that can travel through the air and spread between people is important in helping to protect you, your team and your visitors.
Many potentially airborne infections are inflammatory in nature and affect the upper airways, including the nose, sinuses throat and lungs. These include anthrax, chickenpox/shingles, influenza, legionellosis, measles, meningitis, mumps, pneumonia, the common cold, stephylococcal diseases, streptococcal diseases and tuberculosis.1
The types of airborne transmission
There are two possible routes of airborne transmission – short-range and long-range.
Short-range airborne infection is dependent on the proximity of the infected person to the susceptible host. When an infected individual exhales within the breathing zone of another, that person is at risk of inhaling the pathogens directly and becoming infected also. Larger droplets are more likely to be inhaled this way, as they have less opportunity to evaporate
Long-range infection is more common and occurs when smaller droplets are expelled into the air. These are more likely to evaporate and can then be carried away by airflows. As such, they can infect someone who is much further away from the originally infected individual.i
Other factors that impact airborne transmission include:2
- Temperature – some viruses are more active in the cold, while bacteria tend to be more active in warmer temperatures
- Sunshine – ultraviolet rays can be harmful to some bacteria and viruses
- Humidity – the density of water vapour in the air affects the ability of airborne pathogens to spread
- Air currents – the speed and power of the airflow can increase travel distance of aerosols and therefore distance at which pathogens can infect new people.
How to reduce the risk
There are several ways to reduce the risk of airborne transmission in any number of settings. The wearing of N95 face masks by staff, for example, has been shown to reduce the risk of inhaling pathogens in the air. They have a minimum of 95% efficiency against pathogen filtration, increasing to 99.5% or higher for bacteria particles the size of TB or bigger.3
Finally, the implementation of an air purifier can significantly reduce the number of pathogens in the air at any given time. VIRUSKILLER™ units, for example, kill 99.9999%* of airborne viruses and can help to create a safer space for you, your colleagues and your clients. Here’s more about our VIRUSKILLER™ units.
*When independently tested against Coronavirus DF2 (a surrogate for Coronavirus), Adenovirus, Influenza and Polio, the unit was found to kill 99.9999% of viruses on a single air pass.
1 Tang JW, Li Y, Eames I, Chan PK, Ridgway GL. Factors involved in the aerosol transmission of infection and control of ventilation in healthcare premises. J Hosp Infect. 2006 Oct;64(2):100-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2006.05.022. Epub 2006 Aug 17. PMID: 16916564; PMCID: PMC7114857.
2 Ather B, Mirza TM, Edemekong PF. Airborne Precautions. [Updated 2023 Mar 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531468/
3 Qian Y, Willeke K, Grinshpun SA, Donnelly J, Coffey CC. Performance of N95 respirators: filtration efficiency for airborne microbial and inert particles. Am Ind Hyg Assoc J. 1998 Feb;59(2):128-32. doi: 10.1080/15428119891010389. PMID: 9487666.