RESOURCES: Aerial Attack

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Science  15 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5562, pp. 1979c
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5562.1979c

Disease-causing viruses, bacteria, and fungi fly through the air with the greatest of ease, especially inside the closed buildings in which most of us work and live. Aerobiological engineering, the subject of this Web site from Pennsylvania State University, seeks to design buildings and ventilation systems that thwart airborne pathogens. The problem is severe: Studies show that only 1% of your colds come from that miserable guy snuffling and sneezing next to you on the subway, as opposed to nearly half that come from your family and co-workers.

The Web site discusses a dozen topics in aerobiological engineering, such as the spread of fine particles, epidemiology, sampling and identifying microbes, and sick building syndrome. Another section investigates the spread and control of Legionnaire's disease, a form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacterium that sickened some 200 people at the 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia. The bacteria, which adore the warm, wet conditions in spas, showers, and cooling towers, kill more than 1000 people each year. You can also peruse a rogue's gallery of the most common airborne bugs or bone up on antipathogen technologies such as ultraviolet irradiation, filtration, and even indoor plants that may reduce the numbers of nasties in the air.

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