Advertisement

What is a virus?

Viruses are tiny organisms that cause infection by getting into a person's or animal's cells and multiplying (or reproducing). There are many types of viruses, including the flu (influenza), rhinoviruses (the common cold virus), West Nile virus (spread by mosquitos), HIV, and Ebola (an often fatal virus). Depending on the type of virus, symptoms may be mild, very serious or even deadly. Unlike bacteria, viruses can't be treated with antibiotics. So they're often hard to treat. Unlike bacteria, which generally attack the body's cells from the outside, viruses (which are much, much smaller) invade the body's cells and take control of them to replicate themselves. Sometimes, an antiviral drug can be given, and mild viruses, like a cold or flu, usually get better on their own. Vaccinations can help prevent many viral infections, including the flu, pneumonia, shingles, mumps, measles and chickenpox.

Continue Learning about Viral Infections

Why You Should Be Paying Attention to West Nile Virus
Why You Should Be Paying Attention to West Nile Virus
During the sultry months of summer, mosquitos are usually just a nuisance when you spend time outdoors. But when they hold the potential to pass on se...
Read More
Are certain viruses seasonal?
Howard I. Baron, MDHoward I. Baron, MD
Certain viruses that cause children gastrointestinal upset are seasonal, says Howard Baron, MD, a pe...
More Answers
How are viral infections spread?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Viral infections can be spread in numerous ways. The fastest way is by contact with an infected pers...
More Answers
What Time of Year Do Most Viral Infections Occur?
What Time of Year Do Most Viral Infections Occur?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.