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Viral Infections

Viral Infections

February 1, 2024
Viral Infections

A viral infection refers to an illness caused by tiny organisms known as viruses. These viruses utilize the host cells to replicate and produce additional copies of themselves. 

Viral infections often manifest as respiratory and digestive illnesses. However, viruses can infect various other regions of the body. 

Viruses lack cells. Hence, they lack the “machinery” required to replicate themselves. So, if they want to replicate, they must break into our cells and use our machinery to accomplish so. A viral infection causes you to become ill because viruses replicate.

What is a virus? 

Viruses are tiny germs. They are composed of genetic material (either DNA or RNA) enclosed in a protein coating. While there is a vast variety of viruses on Earth, only a small portion can infect humans. These viruses can invade our cells, potentially leading to diseases. Among the illnesses caused by viruses are COVID-19, the common cold, the flu, and HIV.

Types of viral infections

1.  Respiratory infections 

They are probably the most common viral infections. Respiratory infections may affect your nose, throat, upper airways, and lungs. They may include:

·      sore throat

·      sinusitis

·      common cold (due to rhinovirus)

Other viral respiratory diseases include:

·      ear infection

·      influenza

·      bronchitis

·      pneumonia

·      coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19).

Infants, the elderly, and persons with lung or heart conditions are more prone to experience severe symptoms from respiratory infections. Respiratory viruses are usually transmitted from person to person by contact with contaminated respiratory droplets.

Other viruses affect different regions of the body:

1.  Gastrointestinal tract– such as gastroenteritis, are frequently caused by viruses like:

·      Noroviruses

·      Rotaviruses

2.  Liver– Hepatitis viruses cause liver disease. These infections frequently persist for an extended period.

3.  Nervous system– Some viruses affect your brain and spinal cord. These can induce paralysis, enlargement of the brain or its surrounding tissue (encephalitis or meningitis), and other life-threatening disorders. Example are:

·      Rabies virus

·      West Nile virus

·      Polio

4.  Skin– Viral infections that exclusively affect the skin can cause warts or other imperfections. 

5.  Exanthematous viral infections- They generate rashes that appear like blisters and bumps. These are:

·      Chickenpox

·      Rubella or German measles

·      Measles

6.  Congenital viral infection– Some can infect both the placenta and the fetus in pregnant women. This includes viruses like:

·      Zika virus

·      rubella virus

·      cytomegalovirus

7.  Sexually transmitted viruses– Sexually transmitted diseases are communicated primarily through sexual contact, which includes oral, anal, and vaginal sex. Examples include:

·      HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

·      Hepatitis B

·      Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes genital warts

·      Genital herpes virus (HSV)

8.  Viral hemorrhagic fevers– Hemorrhagic fevers alter how your blood clots. They can also weaken your blood vessels, resulting in potentially fatal bleeding. Examples include:

·      Dengue

·      Ebola

·      Yellow fever

·      Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome

How are viruses spread?

Viruses are transmitted in a variety of ways. They may be.

·      Inhaled

·      Swallowed

·      Spread by the bites of insects, such as ticks, mosquitoes, and flies.

·      Spread following transfusion of infected blood.

·      Sexually transmitted infections.

·      Spread congenitally throughout pregnancy.

What are the treatment options for viral infections?

Treatments for most viral infections can only provide relief from symptoms while your immune system fights the virus. There are antiviral medications available to treat some viral infections. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections.

The Role of Vaccines

Getting vaccinated is one of the most effective ways to minimize your chance of contracting a viral infection. They prompt your immune system to recognize and defend against specific viruses without causing the actual disease. There are vaccines available for the following:

·      COVID-19

·      Rabies

·      Influenza

·      Chickenpox

·      Measles, rubella, and mumps

·      Shingles

·      Hepatitis A and B

·      Rotavirus

·      Human papillomavirus or HPV

·      Polio

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