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Airborne Diseases

Worldwide Health Map

One of most important things you can do to protect yourself against disease is to be aware when there are threats in your area. The Health Map website can help you get an overview of disease outbreaks. Once you register on the site you have full access to the map and zoom in to your region.  You will then learn of all the outbreaks near you, and can sign up for their email alerts.

Awareness is the first step in prevention. If there are hazards in your area then take measures to protect yourself, family and workmates. Some people wear surgical masks, respirators and other face masks to protect themselves and others from the spread of disease.

We cannot guarantee that wearing a StyleSeal Air Mask will prevent you from spreading or receiving airborne infectious diseases. However, using our common sense approach, if you wear nothing you are guaranteed to have no protection. Use all information at your disposal to educate yourself as to what threats you may encounter and what methods of protection will work. Then you can decide the best course of action.

The spread of flu

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of the USA:

“People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.”

However, new research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology using slow-motion photography finds that sneezes droplets can travel much farther than first thought (source)

Protection From Airborne Spread of Disease

After reading above of the ease at which droplets can be spread by cough or sneeze hopefully you are thinking of protecting yourself and those around you when you may be at risk.

Face masks aren’t uncommon in large urban environments in Asia to protect people and those close to them from the spread of flu, other germs, dust and pollutants.  However, in other areas of the world they are rarely seen. Considering the hazards from pollution and disease, especially in urban settings, it is unbelievable why more people do not wear them.

Every day all over the world intelligent people in close proximity, where germs can be easily spread, commute with none or few of them wearing any form of protection against the transmission of airborne disease.  It happens every day all over the world in places like:

  • Trains, planes and buses
  • Along the commute to work
  • Elevators
  • At work
  • School
  • Sporting and Entertainment Events

Why do people not protect themselves?

The reasons are simple why otherwise intelligent people in close proximity to each other risk their health or that of others near them, by not wearing masks.

  1. Germs and pollutants are invisible to the eye. We may know they are there, but since we can’t see them they are “out of sight so out of mind.”
  2. We don’t really know how much pollution and bacteria are in the air and understand the true hazards we are exposed to.
  3. Masks and respirators are not readily available.                                              
  4. Some masks and respirators are uncomfortable.
  5. Some masks and respirators are unattractive. Ladies and businessmen dressed in expensive outfits are unlikely to wear a $.50 green surgical mask.

According to the World Health Organization , “In annual influenza epidemics  5 – 15% of the population are affected.  Annual epidemics are thought to result in between 3 and 5 million cases of severe illness and between 250 000 and 500 000 deaths every year around the world.”

In our rapid paced free moving society new viruses are developing all the time. Some of these new and old airborne infectious diseases and fungi are:

  • Monkey Pox
  • Pulmonary Tuberculosis
  • H1N1 Flu
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
  • Measles
  • Herpes Zoster
  • Hantavirus
  • Cryptococcus
  • Valley Fever
  • And more

Monkey Pox

Monkey Pox is a rare viral disease that occurs mainly in the rain forest countries of central and west Africa. The disease was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958. Blood tests of animals in Africa later found evidence of monkey pox infection in a number of African rodents. The virus that causes monkey pox was recovered from an African squirrel. Laboratory studies showed that the virus also could infect mice, rats, and rabbits. In 1970, monkey pox was reported in humans for the first time. In June 2003, monkey pox was reported in prairie dogs and humans in the United States. 

Monkey pox can spread to humans from an infected animal through an animal bite or direct contact with the animal’s lesions or body fluids. The disease also can be spread from person to person, although it is much less infectious than smallpox. The virus is thought to be transmitted by respiratory droplets during direct and prolonged face-to-face contact. (source)

Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Pulmonary Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that affects 10 people out of every 100,000 people in the United States, says MedlinePlus. This disease occurs when a person inhales infected respiratory droplets. Symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis include coughing up blood or phlegm, excessive night sweats, fever, weight loss and tiredness. This disease can also lead to chest pain, wheezing and problems breathing. The exact cause for pulmonary tuberculosis is the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. MedlinePlus says that the elderly, infants and those people with a weakened immune systems have a risk for getting tuberculosis. Treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis involves taking antibiotic medications such as isoniazid or rifampin to eliminate the bacteria. This treatment may be for more than six months, depending upon the severity of the tuberculosis.

H1N1 Flu

H1N1 Flu, commonly called the swine flu, is another airborne disease passed via respiratory droplets. The H1N1 flu became a household name in the spring of 2009 when an epidemic of this type of flu arose. Specific H1N1 flu symptoms include a fever, diarrhea, chills, a sore throat, a headache, body aches and fatigue, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other flu symptoms include a cough and vomiting.

Typically, these symptoms develop after three to five days of initial exposure. This flu may last for about eight days. Specifically, the H1N1 influenza viruses causes this type of flu. Typically, healthy persons do not require treatment other than supportive medications found at the local pharmacy.

However, antiviral medications may be prescribed to fight off the viral infection. Pregnant women, AIDS/HIV sufferers, children under five years and those with chronic conditions such as asthma may benefit from medications. Pneumonia, respiratory arrest (stop breathing) and exacerbation of diseases such as asthma may result if the H1N1 flu is not treated.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Initially, all the cases had been linked to countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula. However, it has since spread to South Korea with a vengeance as a third person has died from the MERS virus and the number of people infected rose to 35 as of June 5, 2015.  More than 1,600 people were quarantined, and over 700 schools closed. Authorities have been criticized over their response to the outbreak after one infected person went to play golf and another flew to China.

MERS is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About 30% of people confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection have died. This virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. CDC continues to closely monitor the MERS situation globally and work with partners to better understand the risks of this virus, including the source, how it spreads, and how infections might be prevented.

Measles

Measles is a very contagious disease that spreads via contact with droplets from an infected person, states MedlinePlus. Specific symptoms of the measles includes a cough, fever, muscle pain, light sensitivity and a rash. This rash can reveal itself three to five days after showing the aforementioned symptoms and can last for as long as seven days. Specifically, this rash is red, flat, itchy and raised in some places on the skin. Other measles symptoms include a runny nose, a sore throat, redness of the eyes and small white spots on the inside of the mouth (Koplik spots). No specific treatment exists for the measles, but resting, using a humidifier and taking acetaminophen may be beneficial in managing the symptoms.

Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. While it is a common disease worldwide, it is relatively uncommon in the United States. Meningitis can result from either a bacterial or a viral infection, or from noninfectious diseases such as cancer and sarcoidosis. The disease affects people of all age groups; however, children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk. Meningitis can appear abruptly, and the illness can last from 48 hours to several weeks. 

Chronic meningitis, which is a brain infection that causes inflammation of the meninges, can last a month or longer.  While the symptoms are similar, bacterial meningitis is much more serious than viral meningitis. Any symptoms of meningitis should be treated as a medical emergency. If you suspect that you have meningitis of either type, you must contact your doctor. Bacterial meningitis requires hospitalization, and, if untreated, can lead to severe disability or death.

Both viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis are contagious, but meningitis is not as easy to catch as you might think. Although some people think the bacteria that causes meningitis is airborne, it takes more than simply breathing the same air as someone with a meningitis infection to become infected. 

The bacteria reside in droplets of fluid in the throat and nose and can leave the body when an infected person sneezes, laughs, coughs, or talks. If you’re close enough to breathe in the droplets or get them on your hands and then touch your nose or mouth, you can get a meningitis infection. (source)

Herpes Zoster

A third type of Herpes in addition to HHV-1 and HHV-2 is Herpes Zoster (Varicella-Zoster Virus). It causes chicken pox that may shingle later in life once triggered. Once the rashes are gone, the virus becomes latent and does not actually go away. It can spread through airborne droplets through coughing and breathing and by skin to skin contact. The complications include pneumonia, encephalitis, or hepatitis for severe cases.

Hantavirus

Hantavirus is a life-threatening viral infection spread to humans by rodents. It has symptoms similar to influenza. Hantavirus is carried by rodents, especially deer mice. The virus is found in their urine and feces, but it does not make the animal sick.

It is believed that humans can get sick with this virus if they breathe in contaminated dust from mice nests or droppings. You may come in contact with such dust when cleaning homes, sheds, or other enclosed areas that have been empty for a long time. Hantavirus does not seem to spread between humans.

Cryptococcus

Cryptococcus neoformans is a fungus that lives in the environment throughout the world. People can become infected with C. neoformans after breathing in the microscopic fungus, although most people who are exposed to the fungus never get sick from it. C. neoformans infections are extremely rare in people who are otherwise healthy; most cases occur in people who have weakened immune systems.

“Valley Fever”

Coccidioidomycosis or “Valley Fever” is a mammalian fungal disease endemic in certain parts of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and northern Mexico.

An estimated 60% of people infected with the fungi responsible for coccidioidomycosis have minimal to no symptoms, while 40% will have a range of possible clinical symptoms. Of those who do develop symptoms, the primary infection is most often respiratory, with symptoms resembling bronchitis or pneumonia that resolve over a matter of a few weeks. In endemic regions, coccidioidomycosis is responsible for 20% of cases of community-acquired pneumonia. Notable coccidioidomycosis signs and symptoms include a profound feeling of tiredness, fever, cough, headaches, rash, muscle pain, and joint pain. Fatigue can persist for many months after initial infection. The classic triad of coccidioidomycosis known as “desert rheumatism” includes the combination of fever, joint pains, and erythema nodosum.

Nearly 3% to 5% of infected individuals do not recover from the initial acute infection and develop a chronic infection. This can take the form of chronic lung infection or widespread disseminated infection (affecting the tissues lining the brain, soft tissues, joints, and bone). Chronic infection is responsible for most of the morbidity and mortality.

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