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Airborne Precautions.


StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019-.
2019 May 13.

Author information

University of Alabama At Birmingham
NOVA Southeastern Un College of OM


An airborne disorder is any disease that is caused by a microorganism that is transmitted through the air. There are many airborne diseases that are of clinical importance and include bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These organisms may be spread through sneezing, coughing spraying of liquids, the spread of dust or any activity that results in the generation of aerosolized particles. It is important to be aware that airborne diseases, in general, do not include disorders caused by air pollution such as poisons, smog, and dust.[1][2] The microorganisms transmitted airborne may be spread via fine mist, dust, aerosols, or liquids. The aerosolized particles may be generated from a source of infection such as body secretions of an infected patient or even an animal. In addition, aerosols may be generated from biological waste products that accumulate in garbage, caves and dry arid containers. During aerosolization, the microorganisms that are less than 5 microns in size float in the air. Sometimes, the microorganisms may be contained in dust particles that are present in the air. Once the droplets that contains microorganisms have been formed, they are then dispersed via air currents to varying distances and can be inhaled by susceptible hosts.[3][4][5][4] The infected aerosolized particles often remain suspended in the air currents and may travel considerable distances, although many particles will drop off within the vicinity. As the distance traveled of the aerosol particle increases, the risk of infection starts to drop. Airborne precautions necessitate the prevention of infections and use of available interventions in healthcare facilities to prevent the transmission of airborne particles. The airborne particles often remain suspended in the facility air environment and with air currents move along to different parts of the institution where there is a potential of them being inhaled by other patients. The airborne particles may remain localized to the room or move depending on the airflow. In some cases where there is inadequate ventilation, the airborne particle may remain in the hospital room and be inhaled by a newly admitted patient. The control and prevention of airborne transmission of infections are not simple as it requires the control of airflow with the use of specially designed ventilator systems, the practice of antiseptic techniques, wearing personalized protection equipment (PPE) and performing basic infection prevention measures like hand washing.[6][7][8] Airborne Organisms In almost all cases, airborne pathogens cause an inflammatory reaction of the upper airways affecting the nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs. The involvement of these structures may result in nasal or sinus congestion, and sore throat. Any coughing or sneezing activity may then generate aerosolized particles. Some of the common infections that can spread via airborne transmission include the following: Anthrax (inhalation). Chickenpox. Influenza. Measles. Smallpox. Cryptococcosis. Tuberculosis. Airborne disease is not exclusive to humans but can also affect non-humans. For example, many types of poultry are often affected by an avian disorder (Newcastle disease), that is also transmitted via an airborne route. However, it is important to understand that exposure to an animal or a patient with an airborne disease does not automatically ensure disease transmission. The infection also depends on the host immunity, how much exposure the individual has suffered and the duration of exposure to the infected patient.[5][9][10][11] Airborne Particles Generated from Medical Equipment Besides patients, there are also several medical and surgical procedures that can generate aerosolized particles. In most cases, these airborne particles are generated during manipulation of the large airways. Examples include: Manual ventilation with a bag and mask. Intubation. Open endotracheal suctioning. Bronchoscopy. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Sputum induction. Surgery on the lungs. Nebulizer therapy. Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation (BIPAP, CPAP). An autopsy on the lungs.

Copyright © 2019, StatPearls Publishing LLC.

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