Illnesses such as the viruses influenza, tuberculosis, measles, chicken pox or SARS become air borne through a cough or sneeze, evaporate in the air, become aerosolized and can remain in the air for hours. When the wind blows or wind comes into a building though a door opening the aerosolized infectious pathogen can travel great distances. Illness occurs when the pathogen enters the mucus membranes either by touch, inhalation or ingestion.
Aerosolized pathogens can be transmitted through a cough or sneeze and remain in the air for hours. If inhaled they can travel deep into the lungs. Droplets that have landed on surfaces that are transmitted to the eyes or mucus membranes can cause infections.
Varicella Zoster Virus, Herpes 3 is better known as Chicken Pox. Herpes 3 infects the skin and nerve endings. It is spread through salvia, coughing, sneezing or direct skin to skin contact with the infection. After the initial illness Chicken Pox can remain dormant for years. When Chicken pox is reactivated it is called Shingles. The pain associated with Shingles is severe. Postherpetic neuralgia is nerve pain from the damage done to the nerve endings caused by the Varicella Zoster virus. The pain can last many months to years. There are reported cases of chicken pox being spread to a previously uninfected person by an adult suffering from Shingles.
The Rhinovirus can remain active on hands for an hour. That means twenty minutes after sneezing into their hands they can transmit the virus to you by shaking your hand. The Respiratory Syncytial virus can survive on keyboards and door handles for six hours. The Influenza virus can survive for twenty four hours on keyboards. Lower temperatures increases the survival rate of influenza in the air. The Staphylococcus bacteria is also spread through salvia and mucus and can survive in the environment for five to eleven days.
The air droplets of the cough of someone infected with Tuberculosis survives for hours in the air and a month in dusty surfaces. When TB lands on a surface and dries it could still infect many weeks later if it became airborne through dusting or sweeping, if inhaled. The cough or sneeze of someone infected with Measles can live for two hours in the air. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome can last for days in the environment.
Walking into a cough and inhaling it gives you a pretty good chance of getting sick, but it does not mean that you will get sick. If you have a healthy immune system you can fight off infections. There are ways of preventing getting sick at the office. Air borne infections happen in poorly ventilated areas. Being in close proximity or within three feet from a coughing person increases your chance of inhaling their cough.
You can beat the cold and flu by keeping yourself and your environment clean. Boost your immune system with over the counter immune boosters and extra vitamin C. Keep your work space clean. Bring your own antiseptic wipes to work and use them repeatedly on shared work surfaces. Use antiseptic hand sanitizer however wash your hands frequently, especially if you greet the public. If you don’t mind the fragrance, tea tree oil and lavender oil are anti viral and anti bacterial. Filling a small spray bottle with one third tea tree oil, one third lavender oil and one third water and spraying the air will kill virus and bacteria in the air. If that is not possible, there are antiseptic sprays available.
The break room is often a spot that no one cleans up. Eating in the break room should include sanitizing the area first as it is impossible to know what germs could be lingering in the environment. Even if you eat lunch at your desk you should clean the area first. If is important to stay hydrated however keep your water bottle covered. With just a few precautions to protect yourself, you can stay healthy during the cold and flu season. It is important to note that if you are sick you could break the chain of infection by staying home until you recover.