Viruses are as minor as the one that causes the common cold to as serious as HIV and hepatitis C. There are many ways in which we come in to contact with germs. Knowing ways in which you can become infected can help prepare you for being safe.
Airborne and Inanimate Objects
Coughing and sneezing without covering your mouth or washing your hands afterward will spread germs and disease. A cough or a sneeze will release millions of tiny particles into the air. If there is poor air circulation, i.e. on an airplane and someone is flying while sick, the virus can be transmitted by breathing the same air.
In the same example of coughing or sneezing, if the person who is sick covers his mouth but does not wash his hands and touches something, those germs will be left on that object. Those who touch that object will eventually touch their eyes or mouth, and the virus is transmitted this way.
Mucus membranes are located in our mouth, vagina and anus. Any type of unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex can allow the virus to enter through these membranes. Additionally, just kissing or sharing utensils and drinks can pass on the cold, flu, cold sores (herpes) or mononucleosis (the kissing disease).
Coming into contact with infected blood will transmit any viruses in the infected person's blood. In the health care setting, needle stick accidents are the most common way to become exposed, according to a report from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Needle sharing in the realm of drug abusers is also a common way for viruses to spread.
Mother to Child
Viruses can pass through the placenta to unborn children, through the birth canal or through infected breast milk. It is important to have pregnant mothers tested for viruses that can pass through these means and start preventive measures to avoid passing viruses on to children.
Animals and Insects
Mosquitoes and ticks can transmit bacteria, viruses and plasmodium through their bite. It is important to check with the World Health Organization for any vaccines that might be needed when traveling to help protect against these diseases. The bite of infected house pets like dogs and cats or even wild rodents like raccoons can pass rabies to humans, if the biting animal is infected.
Occasionally people are not affected by a disease but can transmit the disease to others. It is important to vaccinate children against hepatitis B, otherwise they can get the infection and become a carrier.
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
- University of Pennsylvania
- "Emergency Care and Transport of the Sick and Injured -- Ninth Edition;" American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons; 2005