Aug 19, 2009
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Causes of Viral Infections

With the media focusing constantly on the Swine Flu epidemic, more and more people are becoming interested and concerned about contracting this and other types of viruses. Viral infections are not new to the human body. In fact, since the dawn of man, we have been susceptible to both viruses and bacterial infections. With today’s medical innovations, we are able to counter a wide variety of viruses that have decimated humans in the past, however from time to time, a new virus is introduced to humans and can have a devastating effect on the many that it infects.

What is a Virus?

Unlike bacteria which are a living organisms, a virus is something different. In fact, a virus are made up of simple genes that instead of having their own cell and other aspects of life, are usually found to have information which can help them hijack a living cell and use that cell to reproduce itself and spread. This fact is why antibiotics which are effective in killing most bacteria do not affect viruses.

Causes of Viral Infections causes of viral infections

How Does a Virus Become Introduced in the Human Population?

The origins of most viruses are unknown; however there is evidence to suggest that many viruses that have a detrimental affect on humans have been transmitted throughout millennia from animals that we closely associate with. For instance, chickens have transmitted quite a few types of viruses to humans, one of them being SARS. Another animal that is also associated with spreading viruses to humans is the pig. Recently, it has been suggested that the pig transmitted swine flu to humans, however this has not been verified as of yet.

So, one of the ways that a virus is introduced to humans is through animals that have similar biology to us and that we are in close proximity with. It should also be noted that newly introduced viruses can in some cases be the ones that are most detrimental to humans due to the fact that our body does not have a defense for it.

Defending Ourselves from Viruses

When a human is a developing fetus, the mother is able to transfer information to the child’s immune system on how to defend itself from viruses. Viruses are made mostly from proteins, so our body has created a natural defense, anti bodies that are able to lock onto certain virus proteins and destroy them. The information that tells the immune system how to attack specific viruses is usually shared from the mother to child. In addition, when we are young, most children are immunized with a vaccination. A vaccination is usually slightly altered (dead) viruses that do not pose a threat to a human body. However, when this foreign “dead” virus is introduced into the human body, our bodies think they are a threat and immediately come up with defenses to kill it. Therefore, if we do come into contact with a “live” virus of the same variety such as the measles, mumps, etc, we are able to destroy it before it poses a serious threat to our health.

Causes of Viral Infections herpes

The Causes of Viral Infections

For some viruses, our bodies do not have a natural defense for. In these cases, our body must fight the virus and quickly develop a natural defense before it does serious damage to our body. The Flu is one of the viruses that most do not have a natural defense for. The reason being is the flu usually mutates slightly each and every year. However, due to our medical innovations over the last century, we are able to come up with a vaccine each and every year to fight this year’s specific virus.

Ways in Which a Virus Spreads

There are many, many viruses that can have an effect on the human body. While humans come into contact with many viruses each and everyday, most do not affect us. In fact, we may be transmitting many harmless viruses each and everyday at work, home and in the community. There are generally a few major ways in which a virus can be transmitted, through inhalation of the mouth and nose, through an orifice such as eyes, sexual organs or an open sore and through the sharing of blood or other body fluids (ex. a drug user sharing a hypodermic needle).

For instance, the common Flu is usually transmitted by the virus entering the mouth or nose of the individual. Generally, a person may come into contact with the virus, whether breathing air that is contaminated with the virus, touching an object such as a door knob with the virus and then touching their eyes or nose allowing the virus easier access, etc. Generally speaking, most viruses that are easily passed on from one to another are categorized as highly contagious. The Flu is one of the most contagious viruses around due to the ease at which it is transmitted.

Protecting Yourself from Viruses

It should be noted that for the vast majority of viruses, the body is able to easily cope and defend against itself from them. One of the best strategies for protecting yourself from viruses is to stay as healthy as possible, eat a good diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals that strengthen your immune system. In addition, some common sense approaches to protecting yourself from viruses include, washing your hands often with soap, especially after you have been outside and before you eat. You should also cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Another person with a virus can contain it by sometimes simply protecting those around them by covering their mouth and nose. Also it is wise to monitor your health. If you believe you have a virus, avoid contact with as many people as possible. For instance, stay home from school or work, which can help to slow the spread of the virus.

Finally, for those looking to protect themselves from a virus, you may want to wear protective clothing like a face mask. However, this is usually an extreme measure or a measure that is necessary when you are at high risk for acquiring or giving another person a virus- not just a moderately harmful virus such as the flu, but a dangerous virus. Generally speaking the Flu, which now includes the Swine Flu that has been introduced this year should not be that much more dangerous than the flu viruses of past years. As always, those with weakened immunity systems, children and older individuals should get vaccinated and take preventive measures, since they are the highest risk of not only acquiring these types of viruses, but suffering the worst from them.

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