What is Air-Borne Disease?

Airborne viruses can become suspended in the air, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. They can then be inhaled by unsuspecting people, resulting in new infections viruses that spread through the air can affect both animals and humans. An airborne virus tends to spread easily and can be more difficult to control than pathogens, microscopic causes of diseases that spread in other ways. Very few diseases can be transmitted through the air. Airborne diseases remain in dust particles and respiratory droplets, which are eventually inhaled by other people. In fact, you don't have to be in the same room as a sick person to get an airborne illness.

Types of Air-borne Disease

Airborne diseases are of multiple types and varieties. There is a range of air-borne diseases, many of which keep evolving with time by adapting to the environment. The most common airborne diseases are:

Air Borne Disease


We all face cough or cold (flu), at least once in our lives. This flu starts affecting us even before there are any visible symptoms. It spreads throughout the body and weakens the immune system. As there are multiple forms of flu and they can evolve, it becomes difficult to identify them and provide vaccinations for such diseases.

Common Cold

It is the most common type of air-borne disease. Everyone is susceptible to catch cold many times in their life. In the US, every year there are more than a million cases of the common cold. The most common virus responsible for the cold in the US is the rhinovirus.


These are highly infectious and are prone to spread before you can understand the symptoms. It takes 5 days or more for symptoms to show. With the available vaccination, the spread of mumps has been controlled largely. Its spread is now limited among people living in congested areas.

Chicken Pox

Chicken Pox spreads through the Varicella-Zoster virus. The symptoms appear after 21 days with rashes, such viral infection mostly happens only once to everyone in a lifetime. Due to certain reactions, it may develop again in the form of shingles. These are very painful. It can also cause chickenpox to someone, who has never had chickenpox.


Another highly communicable disease whose virus keeps suspending in the air or sits on contaminated surfaces for hours is measles. It can infect a healthy person before or after four days of the occurrence of rashes. A total of 140,000 people died due to measles in 2018. It is also one of the crucial reasons for the death of kids across the world. The vaccine available for measles has saved more than 23 million people from 2000 to 2018. In 2019, there were about 1300 cases of measles in the US. It was observed that the infected people were the ones without vaccinations.


It is a kind of disease that spreads through bacteria. It is a communicable disease. It is seen that one can get infected with TB without feeling sick or spreading it to others. Out of 1.4 billion TB cases across the world, the active cases are only 10 million. People with a weak immune system are at a high risk of getting infected due to TB. The symptoms for TB are visible either within a couple of days or may take even months or years in certain cases. As soon as a person gets infected, the bacteria starts to spread and destroy the immune system and lungs. Then it moves to various body organs through the blood vessels or lymph nodes.

Whooping Cough

Also known as Pertussis, whooping cough enlarges the air ducts and transforms into a deadly cough. It is highly infective in the first couple of weeks of cough. Every year, there are 24 million cases of pertussis and about 160,700 dying of it.


It attacks the esophagus and the lungs. Also, it can cause harm to the nervous system, kidneys, and, heart. It is also known to spread majorly in kids and cause death. Due to the invention of the vaccine, it has become a rare disease. There have been less than 5 reported cases of diphtheria in more than a decade. The last reported cases of diphtheria were in 2016 (7,100 cases).


There has been a rapid growth in the spread of novel coronavirus. After the first case appeared in China in 2019, it soon became a pandemic affecting the entire world. It is also a kind of evolving air-borne disease that mutates with time. Even scientists are still trying to understand its behavior. Every day there seems to be new information regarding its symptoms. The common symptoms are dry cough, high body temperature, fatigue, and difficulty in breathing.


Many air-borne diseases have the same symptoms as flu or the common cold. Symptoms for air-borne disease include:

  • Cough
  • Cold
  • Running nose
  • Chest congestion
  • Sinus
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Loss of strength
  • Stuffy throat
  • Tremors
  • High body temperature


Treatment of air-borne diseases varies with the type. Some common treatment methods include:

Symptom Management

Through regular medication, the spread of airborne disease is controlled somehow. Common cold medicines are mostly used to treat these diseases.


Long and proper rest effectively helps to recover from these air-borne diseases.


In certain scenarios when the disease becomes life-threatening, only proper hospitalization is the option. This happens mostly in the case of COVID – 19 or Pertussis.

As air-borne diseases spread quickly, it is very difficult to control them. Only through correct precautionary measures or vaccination, the rate of its progression can be slowed down.



Vaccines are the most important preventive measure to safeguard oneself from getting infected. Currently, there are vaccinations available for diseases like Measles, Mumps, Chicken Pox, and Flu.


Personal and social hygiene is very important. It decreases the spread of these air-borne diseases. Maintain a safe distance in public, wear face masks, and use tissues or handkerchiefs while sneezing or coughing.


With good ventilation, airborne diseases can be prevented from spreading to a lot of people. All the hospitals have high-quality ventilation, today. This can also be effective for residential buildings.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an example of an airborne disease?

Measles and tuberculosis are diseases that are transmitted exclusively through the air. There are several other diseases that are spread through respiratory droplets, which can exist in the air or on surfaces.

2. How are infections spread?

Airborne infections are spread when bacteria or viruses travel on dust particles or small respiratory droplets that are aerosolized when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Healthy people can inhale the infectious droplets or the droplets can get into their eyes, nose, and mouth.

3. How do you fight airborne viruses?

Some airborne diseases, such as chickenpox, do not have a specific treatment. However, medications and other supportive care can help relieve symptoms. Some, like the flu, can be treated with antiviral drugs. Treatment for babies with whooping cough may include antibiotics, and hospitalization is often needed.

4. Is Ebola an airborne disease?

No, the virus that causes Ebola is not spread through the air. The Ebola virus is not spread by small droplets that linger in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, as it is with a cold or the flu.

5. Can airborne viruses enter the ears?

It is possible through the eyes, but probably not through the ears. As with the nose and mouth, doctors say that the eyes can be a route of infection if someone with the virus coughs or sneezes nearby.

6. Why are antibiotics not effective for viral diseases?

Antibiotics are useless against viral infections. This is due to the fact that viruses are so basic that they rely on their host cells to carry out their functions. Therefore, antiviral drugs work differently from antibiotics, by interfering with viral enzymes.