How do viruses spread through the air?
Ways of transmission
Some of the most common viruses, like the flu, travel through the air. Dr Musofa in Surabaya, Indonesia tells us there are two ways viruses can travel through the air. The first is by sneezing, coughing or dropping mucus from our nose. When you are infected with an airborne virus, the virus can travel along with the droplets of fluid you cough, sneeze or drop out. A good sneeze can spread the droplets for more than a meter, so anyone nearby can be easily infected.
The other way for airborne viruses to spread, is when they float in a cluster or fog of really small droplets. Because the droplets are so small, they are able to cover a greater distance and can infect everybody in a room.
Which viruses are airborne?
All the common cold and flu viruses, like Rhino, RSV, Adeno, Corona and of course Influenza itself are airborne. Many childhood diseases, like Measles and Chickenpox are also airborne. And while not a virus, Tuberculosis is a very dangerous bacterial disease that is spread through the air.
Preventing airborne infections starts with proper sneezing hygiene. Don’t spread water droplets in the air where others can breathe them in and get infected. But also cleaning your hands after sneezing is very important, because airborne viruses may also be transmitted by contact with devices like smartphones, door handles and other surfaces. Another effective way of prevention is vaccination. There are vaccins available for influenza and some other airborne viruses like RS virus, but unfortunately not for all viruses.
Vaccination and treatment
So how do you protect yourself against airborne viruses? Your parents probably taught you the most important rules: cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow when you have to sneeze or cough and wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or shaking hands. If you want to be even more protected put on a face mask.