Airborne diseases have killed hundreds of millions throughout history. The Spanish Flu in 1918 alone infected 1/3 of the world's population, & killed 50-100 million people.
Airborne diseases have played a deadly role in the many pandemics that have regularly spread around the world.
From the Bubonic Plague which killed half of the European population between 550-700; to the "Asian Flu" on 1957-1958 which killed around 2 million people, and the "Hong Kong Flu" of 1968-1969 in which another 1 million died.
Even today, with our improved sanitation and living conditions, and our great medical advances... over 4 million die each year from acute respiratory infections, 2 million die from Tuberculosis, over 600,000 die from Measles, some 290,000 die from Whooping Cough, and 175,000 from Meningitis.(ref: WHO )
One sneeze can release a highly infectious aerosol of up to 40,000 respiratory droplets and send them spraying for metres.
These pathogens can land on nearby people and be inhaled. They can hang around in the air. Or they can land on surfaces and survive from hours, to days, to weeks, even months, just waiting for to be transferred to the next unsuspecting victim by human skin contact.Anatomy of a Sneeze; Fox 11 WLUK-TV.
Meanwhile, some bacteria like Legionella ("Legionnaires Disease") lurk in warm, damp, dark areas and in the aerosol of office air-conditioner cooling towers; and other pathogens blow around on swirling dust and pollution particles.
1. Try to smother coughs and sneezes with tissues (and hope others do the same and don't cough or sneeze all over you). Always dispose of soiled tissues in a sanitary fashion.
2. Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing if possible, or keep antibacterial hand-wipes handy. Regular use of hand-wipes after touching super-market shopping trolleys, escalator hand-rails, ATMs, etc may also help.
3. Some situations may warrant that you wear a mask.
* Surgical masks only help prevent body fluids from splashing onto your face, mouth, and nose and stop you touching your face. They don't give proper protection from bacteria and virus transmission. Face-fitted health care worker masks like the NIOSH N95 (in U.S.) and the EN 149FFP3 (in Europe) are required to really protect against airborne diseases.
4. Avoid heavily infected areas. That means not sitting close to someone who is coughing or sneezing; preferably not even being in the same room. In a pandemic, it may mean avoiding crowded public areas altogether (picture theatres, churches, shopping centres, sporting events, etc), or keeping children home from school for a while. In an crisis situation staying isolated at home as much as possible may be a consideration.
5. Immunisations & Vaccinations can be life saving.
6. Don't go to work if you're sick... you'll only infect others and probably get worse yourself.
7. Installation of the best possible air filtration systems in hospitals, public buildings, and offices.
8. Avoid travel to heavily infected areas.
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Who Ate My Lunch?