An infection develops when the body is invaded or attacked by a foreign organism or disease causing agent. These organisms and disease causing agents include viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and prions, to name a few. They damage the body by using its resources, and by producing toxins.
The body fights off infection by activating its immune system. There are some medications available to get rid of the infecting organism, or shorten its lifespan. However, not all infections are treatable.
What are Viruses?
Viruses are microscopic infectious agents. They are much smaller than bacteria and can only be seen under special microscopes. Viruses reproduce by using the cells of its host. They may attack your own cells, or even attack bacterial cells inside your body and use those to reproduce. Viruses that use bacteria to reproduce are called bacteriophages, and they look rather creepy.
When the virus attaches itself to a cell, it inserts its own DNA into that cell. The cell turns into a zombie of sorts, and instead of going about its own business, it continuously makes new viruses until it dies. The virus has taken over the life of that cell.
The common cold and the flu are caused by viruses. Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics, which is why your medical provider will not prescribe antibiotics. Treating someone with antibiotics when they do not need them is dangerous, because it leads to antibiotic resistance.
The body’s own immune system will also fight the virus. For most viral infections this usually takes 7-10 days. However, there are many viruses the body can’t get rid of on its own. These include the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis viruses. Some viruses also lead to cancer.
There are medications designed for specific viruses that help shorten one’s recovery time. These are called antivirals.
Antivirals interfere with the virus’ ability to replicate, which reduces the amount of virus in the body and makes it easier for the body to fight the infection.
Viruses can be prevented with some vaccines, such as the flu vaccine. It is important for individuals who are old, sick or have other health issues to get the flu vaccine. This is because catching the flu can make underlying health issues much more serious.
Individuals who work in health care are often mandated to receive many vaccines to reduce the spread of the illness, and help protect patients.
The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed medical professional. It is essential that you discuss with your primary care provider any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.