What to know about Airborne diseases.

Sylvester Torsman
Sylvester Torsman

What are airborne diseases?

The term airborne means "in the air or carried by the air." Airborne diseases thus mean diseases that are carried/conveyed by the air. Airborne diseases are easily transmitted and thus very dangerous because of the high level of transmission. They are such that they may easily be transmitted through breathing.‌‌ Airborne diseases can spread when certain infectious people sneeze, cough or talk, spewing nasal and throat secretions into the air. Some viruses or bacteria which are responsible for such diseases hang in the air or land on other people or surfaces.‌‌ Airborne diseases are difficult to control because they travel through the air. Some examples of these airborne diseases are COVID 19, common cold, chicken pox, mumps, diphtheria, influenza, measles, etc.‌‌

Why the rapid spread?‌‌

Diseases that are spread successfully through airborne transmission tend to have high attack rates because they are able to quickly reach and infect many people in a short period of time. The medium is the wind and it is everywhere around us. Also, it is not unusual to find people together all the time at work places, schools, social gatherings and other convocation areas.‌‌ Not all airborne diseases have been very deadly but we have had some scares with the recent coronavirus that has caused a lot of deaths and inflicted panic in the society. Many airborne diseases tend to escalate more easily than other types of diseases, and are thus harder to curb.

A number of airborne diseases have come in the past and have posed a significant threat to the health of many Africans, especially in Ghana where many deaths were recorded from mere Tuberculosis. Several other airborne diseases have shook the foundation of this continent. Some examples of them are;

Tuberculosis(TB): TB is an airborne bacterial infection but doesn’t spread easily, requiring long periods of close contact with an infected person. Cases of TB worldwide has been recorded to about 1.4 billion, but only 10 million of those are active, in that they are confirmed as infected.‌‌

Chicken pox: Chickenpox, also called varicella, is characterized by itchy red blisters that appear all over the body. A virus causes this condition. It often affects children. It ma be rare to have chicken pox more than once and its cases have declined since vaccines were created.‌‌

Influenza: Many people have had some experience with the flu. It spreads so easily because it’s contagious; It takes about a day before you notice the first symptom and stays actively contagious for another 5 to 7 days. If your immune system is weak for any reason, you can spread it to others for longer periods than that. Symptoms may include muscle aches, fever, cough, congestion, chills, runny nose, headaches and fatigue.‌‌

Common cold: The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It's normally harmless, though it might not feel that way. Several kinds of viruses can cause a common cold. It is easily contracted by children lass than 6 years old and can also be contracted by adults, usually twice or thrice a year. Most cases occur through contact with an infected person, and it is easily spread also through coughing, sneezing, saliva and contact with fluid from the pox blisters.‌‌

COVID 19: As has become the order of the day, covid 19, popular known as coronavirus has taken centre stage in world affairs currently. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular(heart) disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Common Symptoms of Airborne diseases‌‌

  1. Sneezing‌‌
  2. Sore throat
  3. Stuffy or runny nose‌‌
  4. Congestion
  5. Coughing‌‌‌‌
  6. Sinus pressure‌‌
  7. Fatigue‌‌
  8. Chills ‌‌
  9. Body and muscle aches

Prevention of Airborne diseases‌‌

Use of vaccines: Vaccines have been pivotal in minimizing the infections and deaths from airborne diseases and are the best way to protect both yourself and others. Vaccinations exist for measles, chickenpox, mumps, flu, etc. A vaccine for COVID 19 is currently in development.

Hygiene: Good personal hygiene is key to prevent the spread of all infectious diseases, including practices such as washing your hands often, sneezing and coughing into a tissue and altogether staying home when you’re sick. However, airborne diseases require additional measures, since you can easily inhale them if you’re within 6 feet of an infected person. Therefore try to maintain some distance from others anytime you’re in a public place.

Ventilation: Proper ventilation is key to prevent the spread of airborne diseases. Measures should be pit in place for proper and effective ventilation in residential environments. For example, opening of windows and doors, cleaning and maintain your home’s ventilation system regularly, and consider adding special filters to promote airflow.

Masks: While the CDC(Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) does not recommend that people routinely wear masks outside of the health care setting to avoid contracting the seasonal flu, they have changed their guidelines for the recent COVID-19 outbreak. People ought to wear masks or face coverings in public places where other social distancing measures are laborious to keep , such as grocery stores.

proper way to wear your masks

Treatment for common airborne diseases‌‌

For most airborne diseases, plenty of rest and fluids are required. Further treatment depends on your specific illness.‌‌ Other airborne diseases, such as chickenpox, have no earmarked treatment. However, medications and other supportive care can help alleviate symptoms.‌‌ Some others, such as the flu, can be treated with antiviral drugs.‌‌ Infants with whooping cough can be treated using antibiotics, and are often hospitalized.


Naturally, airborne diseases are quite drudging to curb when there is an outbreak and this article tends to educate on how to detect, handle and treat them. In light of this, I recommend that this is treated with utmost seriousness to save more lives in our communities and to preserve our environment. Always remember, your knowledge is your power.