Airborne Infections

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Infections of the upper respiratory tract are acquired mainly by the inhalation of pathogenic organisms. Man is the reservoir of most of these infections. Carriers play an important role and may represent the major part of the reservoir, eg meningococcal meningitis. There are three main mechanisms for the transmission of airborne infections - droplets, droplet nuclei and dust.

Measles tends to be a severe disease in malnourished children, and in some epidemics in the rural tropics the mortality has been as high as 50%. The infection not infrequently precipitates 'kwashiorkor'. Whooping cough is an important cause of infantile mortality in some areas of the tropics, while tuberculosis remains one of the major health problems in many tropical countries where it is being aggravated by dense over­crowding in urban slums. Tuberculosis presents a wide variety of clinical forms, but pulmonary involvement is common and is most important epidemiologically, since it is mostly responsible for the transmission of the infection.

Massive epidemics of meningococcal meningitis occur periodically in the so-called 'meningitis belt' of tropical Africa. In this zone, the epidemics come in waves followed by periods of respite.

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» Meningococcal meningitis
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» Whooping cough

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