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In this type of transmission, infective agents are spread as aerosols, and usually enter a person through the respiratory tract. Aerosols are tiny particles, consisting in part or completely of the infectious agent itself, that become suspended in the air. These particles may remain suspended in the air for long periods of time, and some retain their ability to cause disease, while others degenerate due to the effects of sunlight and dryness. When a person breathes in these particles, they become infected with the agent—especially in the alveoli of the lungs. (see also airborne transmission)
Small particles of many different sizes contaminated with the infective agent may rise up from soil, clothes, bedding or floors when these are moved, cleaned or blown by wind. These dust particles may be fungal spores—infective agents themselves—tiny bits of infected feces, or tiny particles of dirt or soil that have been contaminated with the agent.
Droplet nuclei can remain in the air for a long time. Droplet nuclei are usually the small residues that appear when fluid emitted from an infected host evaporates. In the case of the virus causing hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, the rodent carriers produce urine. The act of spraying the urine may create the aerosols directly, or the virus particles may rise into the air as the urine evaporates. In other situations, the droplets may occur as an unintended result of mechanical or work processes or atomization by heating, cooling, or venting systems in microbiology laboratories, autopsy rooms, slaughterhouses or elsewhere.
Both kinds of particles are very tiny. Larger droplets or objects that may be sprayed or blown but that immediately settle down on something rather than remaining suspended, are not considered to belong to the airborne transmission mechanism. Such sprays are considered direct transmission.CDC - Cite This Source - This Definition
- Browse Related Terms: Airborne transmission, Direct transmission, Indirect transmission, Risk, transmission of infectious agents (such as a virus), Vehicle-borne transmission