Virus: Meaning & Risks
Rapid increase of harmful viruses in the human body are called viral infections. Viruses are microscopic bacteria present in every region of the earth. They are much smaller in size in comparison to bacteria. However, viruses need a host body to thrive and reproduce.
It can affect:
The way a virus affects different organisms may vary. For example, the same virus may impact a cat or a dog differently.
What are Viral Infections?
A viral infection is the multiplication of a dangerous virus within the body. Viruses are unable to reproduce without the help of a host.
Virus introduces their genetic materials into the cells of the host body. Then, it hijacks the internal mechanisms of the cells to produce more viruses.
What is the Difference Between Viral and Bacterial Infections?
The first difference is that viruses are much smaller than bacteria. The most massive virus is also lower than the smallest bacteria. Viruses consist of a protein coat and a genetic substance(either DNA or RNA).
The significant biological distinction between bacterial vs viral infection is that the former are free living cells that may exist within or outside the body. In contrast, the latter is a non-living collection of chemicals that require a host to thrive.
Bacteria can survive without a host, but viruses can’t.
All the viruses cause diseases, but that is not the case with bacteria. Also, viruses are very distinctive in the cells they attack. For instance, some viruses can attack the respiratory system, blood, or liver cells, while others target bacteria.
How Does A Virus Infect You?
Viruses are usually present in the environment. When a host body arrives on their way, they enter and infect the body.
The viruses can enter the body through:
- Breaks in the skin
After entering, all they do is locate a host cell to contaminate. The host cells depend upon the type of virus.
For example, the viruses of cold and flu will infect the cells of the digestive or respiratory tracts. While the HIV that causes AIDS infects the T-cells of the immune system.
The lytic cycle may help understand the working mechanism of a virus.
- Adsorption: A virus locates a host cell to infect.
- Penetration: The virus releases its genetic substance into the host cells.
- Biosynthesis: The viruses multiply within the host body.
- Assembly: The replicated substance then forms the viral phages.
- Release: The infected cell releases the recently formed viral phages.
What are the Four Types of Viral Infections?
Viral Respiratory Infections
- Seasonal Influenza: Seasonal influenza symptoms include the sudden commencement of cough, headache, fever, joint and muscle spasms, severe malaise, runny nose, and sore throat. It affects about 5-20% of Americans each year. Studies suggest that nearly two hundred thousand people hospitalise because of this influenza in a year.
- Rhinovirus: The meaning of Rhin is “nose.” Rhinovirus is an infection that causes the common cold. In addition, it can cause sore throats, ear and sinus infections. It can also give rise to bronchitis and pneumonia, although the chances are rare.
Also Read: The three common types of Ear infections
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): RSV is one of the most prevalent viruses that causes mild cold-like symptoms in older children and adults. It can take a severe form in young children aged two years or less.
- Each year about 2.1 million children get affected by the RSV virus in the United States of America. It accounts for about 14000 deaths among adults above 65.
Food Borne Viral Infections
Viruses are the leading cause of food poisoning worldwide. The symptoms depend on the virus involved.
- Rota Virus: One of the most infectious viruses that lead to diarrhoea. Rotavirus can infect people of any age group, but the risks are higher for toddlers and small children. It accounts for more than 215,000 deaths every year in the US. Before the vaccine, this virus infected nearly every child before they turned five.
- Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A virus causes a highly infectious liver disorder. The symptoms are mild and persist for only a couple of days for some people. While for others, the symptoms can be severe and last for months. It can spread through contaminated food or water or direct contact with an infected person.
- Norovirus: Noroviruses are high contagious and cause diarrhea and vomiting. The virus can infect people and make them sick. It transmits through an infected person or from contaminated food and water. In the United States of America, Noroviruses affect nearly 20 million people every year.
Viral Skin Infections
These are the infections of the skin caused by viruses. Some of the common viral skin infections are listed below:
- Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1): The viral skin infection comes in two forms: HSV-1 & HSV-2. HSV-1 leads to oral herpes and gives rise to cold sores and fever blisters all over the face and mouth. HSV-2 causes a sexually transmitted disease called genital herpes. Surveys suggest that more than 50% of adults in the US have oral herpes. In addition, every 1 in 8 people has genital herpes in the country.
- Molluscum contagiosum: A common viral skin infection that leads to round, sturdy, and painless bulges of varying sizes. They can be as small as a pinhead and as large as a pencil eraser. Do not scratch the bumps at any time as they can spread to the circumscribing skin. It is also called water warts and accounts for nearly 1 % of the total cases of skin infections.
- Varicella-zoster virus (VZV): It is the virus of chickenpox and shingles. Chickenpox is a common childhood ailment that causes viremia, fever, and distributed vesicular lesions all over the body.
Sexually Transmitted Viral Infections
- Genital Herpes: As discussed above, HSV-2 causes genital herpes. There is no cure yet discovered for the disease. During the outbreaks of genital herpes, you may get painful sores. You can take antiviral medications(Valcivir 500 mg, Valcivir 1000 mg) and reduce the length and the number of seizures.
- HIV: HIV affects specifically T-cells. As the infection progresses, the infected person’s immune system becomes incapable of combating diseases and conditions, leading to AIDS(Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Efavirenz (Efavir 600 Mg), Efavirenz (Sustiva) are some of the most common medications for treating HIV.
- Hepatitis B: It affects the liver and can lead to acute and chronic disorders. The virus generally gets transmitted from mother to child at birth and delivery or through blood or other bodily fluids. Nearly 1.2 million in the US and 350 million all across the globe have hepatitis B. You can prevent the disease with the hepatitis B vaccination. On the other hand, if you are aware of you getting exposed to the virus, an injection of immunoglobulin(ImmunoRel 5% Injection) within 12 hours of exposure may protect you from getting sick.
- Human Papillomavirus: It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Many people don’t usually get the symptoms but can still infect others through skin contact. For some people with the disease, warts appear over the genitals and the adjacent skin. While for others elevates the risk of cervical cancer. There are vaccinations available that you can take and prevent yourself from the cancer-causing strains.
Other Viral Infections
- West Nile virus (WNV): A single-stranded RNA that can lead to West Nile fever, a mosquito-borne disease with little to no symptoms. Some common symptoms include skin rash, body aches, fever, headache, and swelling of the lymph glands. The symptoms can last from a couple of days to a few weeks. The virus can be fatal if it enters the brain.
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): Formally termed as human gammaherpesvirus 4, one of the most prevalent viruses in humans. It is popularly known as the root cause of infectious mononucleosis.
- Viral meningitis: It is one of the most prevalent meningitis that infects the brain and spinal cord lining. Other common symptoms include fever, headache, stiffness of the neck, etc. Viral meningitis is less severe than bacterial meningitis. You can get relieved from the symptoms in a few days, even without treatment. Several viruses can cause viral meningitis, but it generally happens due to a group of viruses(known as enteroviruses).
What is the fastest way to get rid of a Viral Infection?
No magic cures an infection. There are treatments available that are virus-specific.
However, there are general measures for the prevention of the same. The steps one can adopt to prevent infection from a virus are:
Also Read: A detailed guide to Coronavirus Recovery
There are many general ways by which one can prevent viral infections. These are:
- Wash your hands frequently with a good quality soap or hand wash.
- Avoid exposure to contaminated surfaces and infected persons.
- Consume healthy food that is appropriately treated or prepared.
- Use a tissue while sneezing or coughing.
- Practice safe sexual intercourse.
- Prevent bites from mosquitoes and other arthropods.
The objective of vaccines is to stimulate the immune system and make it capable of fighting diseases and infections. Therefore, people should take vaccines before exposure to germs. Following are some of the most popular viral vaccinations:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Human Papillomavirus
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Measles, Rubella, Mumps
- Yellow Fever
- Herpes Zoster
Smallpox vaccines also exist, but they are given only to those at an elevated risk for the disease, like military personnel.
They act as an antibody and fight infection. Immune globulins consist of the plasma of people with high antibodies. People with a weak immune system often take immune globulins to reinforce their defence mechanisms by injecting them into a vein or muscle. However, the effect lasts only until the body eradicates the injected antibodies.
1 Are Viral Infections Contagious?
Viruses aren’t always contagious. This implies they don’t always pass from one person to the next. However, many of them are. The flu, the common cold, HIV, and herpes are all instances of contagious viral infections.
Viral illnesses spread in different ways, such as biting an infected bug.
2 How Long are Viral Infections Contagious?
The length of contagiousness is dependent on the virus one is infected from. Most infected people remain contagious for around two weeks. However, viral infections like mononucleosis remain infectious for 4-7 weeks.
3 Are Sinus Infections Viral?
A virus causes the majority of sinus infections. If this is the case, you can share the virus that caused the disease but not the condition itself. Another individual may become ill, but a sinus infection is unlikely. Colds are usually caused by these viruses, which may or may not lead to sinus infections.
4 What are the signs of a viral infection?
The following are the signs and symptoms of a viral infection:
- Sore throat
- Running nose
- Abdominal pain
- Skin rash
5 Why is a virus not considered living?
Viruses are not made of living cells. They are molecules surrounded by a protein coat and therefore cannot maintain a stable condition, develop, or generate their energy. Hence, we must not consider them as living cells.
Viral infections can be of many types. Proper diagnosis is necessary to diagnose the type evidently. The mode of treatment is concluded thereafter. The article clearly voices that a viral infection can be lethal. However, with proper treatment and preventives measures, one can save themself from causality.