Aug 19, 2009
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What is a Viral Infection?

With this year’s Swine Flu epidemic, many are trying to educate themselves on what exactly is a viral infection, how a person can reduce the risk of acquiring one and how to treat a loved one or oneself that is mildly stricken by one. Viruses are not new and have affected our bodies since the very beginning of our species, however as humans evolve so do viruses. Here is some information regarding a viral infection.

What is an Infection?

An infection is usually defined as when another species or organism colonizes a host organism. For instance, the world is not only full of mammals, but of very small, microscopic organisms that feed off of humans. Generally speaking, it is not simply one organism feeding off of a species such as humans, but it could be thousands, millions or more. In effect, these small organisms or species such as a virus (which will be explained below) begin to colonize a host organism and as it feeds off this host, it could lead to the detriment of the host causing it to not function properly or die.

What is a Viral Infection? hiv virus

For instance, if a person has an open wound and comes into contact with bacteria, this bacteria may find it easy to feed off of the host due to the break in the skin and start to procreate. From maybe several hundred bacteria, over the course of a few days, the bacteria can exponentially grow into millions having an adverse affect on the host organism. Usually, when a human has an infection, it fights it with its natural defenses (specifically white blood cells), however if the bacteria are able to overpower the body’s natural defenses, the host itself can become in jeopardy. In the case of a person being unable to stop an infection, the infection can spread to body’s organs and throughout the body, can cause gangrene, where an infected area will need to be removed or completely overload the host body’s defenses causing death.

What is a Virus?

While bacteria are usually microscopic organisms, a virus is different. A virus is not a fully functional organism. You may want to think of a virus as biological material that once inside a host’s cell, can cause the cell to mutate. For instance, the common cold is a virus and requires a host body to reproduce. It should be noted that antibiotics such as penicillin do not work on killing viruses. However, there are antiviral drugs that can help lessen the effectiveness of viruses. In a human’s body, there are specific defenses that fight a long range of viruses that have exposed our species over the millennia and even if a human is infected with a new virus, there is a very good chance that our bodies can create a defense against it.

A Viral Infection

A viral infection while similar in certain ways to a bacterial infection is usually slightly different. For instance, while a bacterial infection might be more inclined to colonize an open sore or other accessible area of the body and stay specifically at that area for a length of time, viral infections are more systemic, meaning they usually propagate throughout the body. This is why when you have the flu; you not only have aches in your shoulders, but also in your legs and maybe a runny nose, cough, etc- the virus attack all areas of your body.

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