Aerosol transmission of infectious disease

J Occup Environ Med. 2015 May;57(5):501-8. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000448.


Objective: The concept of aerosol transmission is developed to resolve limitations in conventional definitions of airborne and droplet transmission.

Methods: The method was literature review.

Results: An infectious aerosol is a collection of pathogen-laden particles in air. Aerosol particles may deposit onto or be inhaled by a susceptible person. Aerosol transmission is biologically plausible when infectious aerosols are generated by or from an infectious person, the pathogen remains viable in the environment for some period of time, and the target tissues in which the pathogen initiates infection are accessible to the aerosol. Biological plausibility of aerosol transmission is evaluated for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus and norovirus and discussed for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, influenza, and Ebola virus.

Conclusions: Aerosol transmission reflects a modern understanding of aerosol science and allows physically appropriate explanation and intervention selection for infectious diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols*
  • Air Microbiology*
  • Caliciviridae Infections / transmission
  • Caliciviridae Infections / virology
  • Coronavirus
  • Cough / microbiology*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Norovirus
  • Particle Size
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / transmission
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / virology
  • Sneezing*


  • Aerosols