Sep 23, 2010
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Viral Infection Vs Bacterial Infection

While many think of having a viral infection or an infection from bacteria as being closely associated, they are in many ways very different.  In fact, by understanding that these two categories of infections are different, doctors and health personal are able to educate the population at large to deal with each type of infection correctly, but avoiding types of health treatment that can actually do harm to the public at large.

What is Bacteria?

Bacteria are small, microscopic organisms that are able to live off a host organism.  Humans are ideal hosts for many types of bacteria.  In fact, while there are many types of bacteria that are capable of doing us harm, we also have a symbiotic relationship with several types of bacteria that are actually helpful to our day to day functioning.  For instance, in our stomachs and intestines, there are several types of bacteria that help us break down food so that we can be well nourished.  However, when focusing on a bacteria infection, it should be noted that bacteria which infect a human body are those types of organisms that colonize within or on the surface of our body’s (skin) and cause detriment to our bodies functioning.  For instance, those with a bad scrape can find that bacteria are easily able to colonize this open soar and infect this scraped area.

Viral Infection Vs Bacterial Infection virus bacteria

What is a Virus?

Viruses are different from bacteria.  They are not organisms, in fact most are simply genetic material that requires a host cell to reproduce.  For the many viruses that infect our bodies, a virus uses our own cells, hijacking these cells to reproduce itself.

Bacteria Usually Infect a Localized Area

Infections that are caused by bacteria are usually localized.  For instance, when you scrape yourself, bacteria usually colonize the skin that has been damaged.  A virus is different.  A virus is systemic; it usually infects the entire body.  Viruses are very small, usually 100 times or smaller than a standard bacterium, they can be breathed in by the thousands or more into a body and once in the body circulate easily throughout.  This is why those infected with a viral infection usually have symptoms not in one area, but throughout the entire body.

Antibiotics Only Work on Bacterial Infections

One of the most important things to remember regarding the differences between a viral infection and a bacterial infection is that antibiotics only work on bacteria.  If you have a common cold or influenza, antibiotics will not assist in killing the virus or shortening its length of infection.  In fact, prescribing antibiotics to the mass public for fighting the flu can actually due harm to the human population, because it strengthens current bacteria strains making them more resistant to antibacterial drugs.  This why, antibiotic drugs that were prescribed 30 or even 20 years ago are no longer effective against today’s strains of bacteria.

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