As the earth keeps on succumbing to the negative effects caused due to climate change, the air quality has been undergoing a massive change for the worse. With the particulates and poisonous gases in the air experiencing an upward spike, humanity and other life forms are facing tremendous problems in their race for survival.
This is made even more complicated by the presence of microbial organisms in the air which are harmful to humans and animals alike. These harmful microbes are generally known as pathogens.
Airborne pathogens :
Those pathogenic microbial organisms which are discharged from the body of an infected person and are transmitted to others via the air, thus spreading communicable diseases, are known as airborne pathogens. Airborne pathogens generally infect the sinus-respiratory system and hence are ejected from the body by means of cough, sneezes, laughter, talking, spewing of nasal and throat secretions in the air and close personal contact. The aerosolization of the microbes aid them in spreading through the air. The microbes which are discharged from the body of an infected person quickly suspend in the air on dust particles and water droplets and after infecting a person, they remain suspended in the epithelial layer and the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract.
Generally, certain kinds of bacteria, fungi, fungal spores, and viruses can be categorized as airborne pathogens. These are instrumental in spreading diseases like Influenza, Anthrax(inhalational), Chickenpox, Measles, Smallpox, Tuberculosis, etc. the airborne diseases are not only restricted to humankind and can also spread to other animals like Bovine Anthrax, which infects the cattle; Swine Flu, which infects pigs and Avian Influenza, which infects birds and poultry alike. Ingestion of food and food products derived from these animals can cause the infection to get magnified and spread amongst the humans too. These pathogens are also known as VOCs or volatile organic compounds.
- The climate, living area, mean hours of sunshine, precipitation and relative humidity- all of these play a very crucial role while determining the presence and the possibility of escalation of an airborne pathogen. The transmission of pathogens is favored by the presence of precipitation and high relative humidity or moisture in the air. Infrequent climatic conditions like storms, typhoons, hurricanes are likely to cause increased transmission of the pathogens in air, as they are likely to spread through high-speed wind movement. The presence of UV rays is detrimental to these organisms and result in their elimination.
- Socio-economic and dwelling factors also play an extremely important role in the spreading of airborne pathogenic microbes. The proliferation of these microbial organisms is high in the cities whereas in rural areas with under-developed sewage systems; these pathogens spread excessively. The growth of pathogens is particularly common when living habitats are particularly close to natural, exposed water bodies like rivers or lakes.
Effects of airborne pathogens: how they affect humans :
The airborne pathogens can also be termed as allergens as their presence in the physiology sparks off a vigorous response from the immune system, which is generally known as allergies. These pathogens or allergens cause inflammation of the nose, throat, sinuses and the lungs when they get an entry in the sinus-respiratory system or other parts of the human body. They are commonly allowed to ingress into the living system through inhalation. The inflammation of the upper part of the respiratory tract through these airborne agents results in sinus congestion, coughing, and sore throats. The air pollution also plays a consequential part in aggravating the inflammation and other grave physical conditions caused by these airborne pathogens. Therefore it negatively affects our daily lives and our work and sometimes these effects might escalate into something which can be deemed as fatal.
A few ways to prevent the spread of airborne pathogens and impede the mushrooming of communicable diseases can be enumerated below.
- Washing hands and limbs using appropriate disinfection.
- Getting regular immunizations against such diseases which are believed to be concentrated in a particular area or region.
- Wearing proper respirators and masks.
- Proper maintenance and care of a person affected with respiratory and similar syndromes so that he or she might not become the source of the infection while it spreads.
- Use of HVACs to maintain proper indoor air quality.
Thus, these aforementioned data suggest that airborne pathogens are extremely harmful to humankind in general and their spread should be arrested by following the stated techniques before the infection reaches an extremum.