Viral infections: causes, symptoms, and medication
Viruses are very tiny germs made of an organic material with a protein covering. Viruses can cause infections such as the common cold, influenza, and chickenpox.
What is a viral infection?
A viral infection is a large amount of harmful virus inside the body. A virus cannot produce without a host, so it needs to latch onto a host cell in order to multiply. Once it has gotten a hold of a host cell, it multiplies, and the new virus cells infect more of the body’s cells. The symptoms a patient feels are due to the effects of cell damage, tissue destruction, and the immune system fighting.
What are the causes of a viral infection?
A viral infection occurs when a virus enters the body. There are different ways you can get infected by a virus. Viruses can spread through the air (when droplets of water mixed with the virus is released when an infected person sneezes, cough, or talks), contaminated food, insect bites, sexual contact, or transfusion of contaminated blood.
Diseases caused by viruses include:
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- Influenza (flu)
- HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
What are the symptoms of a viral infection?
Because there are a number of different viruses that can infect the body, the symptoms will vary depending on the type of viral infection. The symptoms many of the viruses share are:
- High Fever
- Tiredness or Fatigue
- Sore throat
- Abdominal Pain
- Runny nose
- Skin rash
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle ache
- Stiffness in neck
- Loss of sensation
- Impaired bladder
- Impaired bowel function
- Paralysis of limbs
What are the drugs used for viral infections?
Most treatments for viral infections involve relieving the symptoms of the infection, not killing the virus itself. For instance, a fever reducer (like ibuprofen) can be given to lower a fever caused by the influenza virus or cough suppressant may be given to those suffering from the common cold.
There are certain drugs used to treat viral infections. These are called antiviral medications. They work by preventing virus particles from multiplying. Some work by preventing viruses from entering the body’s cells. The different kinds of antiviral medications are commonly used for chickenpox, shingles, and HIV.
Antibiotics cannot kill viruses and are ineffective against viral infection. Using antibiotics on a viral infection can cause bacteria to become more resistant to the drugs.