What is a virus?

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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

Viral Infections

Viral Infections

Viral infections like herpes simplex, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), chicken pox and rotavirus are infections caused by a virus instead of a bacterium. Viral infections do not respond to antibiotics, but some specific viruses ...

like influenza A and B can be treated with certain antiviral medications. Most commonly, treatment for viral infections includes drinking lots of fluids, getting rest, eating well and letting the illness run its course.
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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.