Viral Diseases – Symptoms, Causes &Treatments

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A viral infection is any type of illness or disease caused by a virus, a type of microbe. A viral infection occurs when a virus enters the body through such processes as breathing air contaminated with a virus, eating contaminated food, or by having sexual contact with a person who is infected with a virus. A viral infection may also be caused by an insect bite. In a viral infection, the virus invades the inside of the body’s cells in order to reproduce. A virus then spreads to other cells and repeats the process.

This process of viral infection results in a variety of symptoms that vary in character and severity depending on the type of viral infection and individual factors. Common symptoms of a viral infection includefatigue, flu-like symptoms and fever.

 

Many types of viral infections, such as a cold, are self-limiting in generally healthy people. This means that the viral infection causes illness for period of time, then it resolves and symptoms disappear. However, some people are at risk for developing serious complications of viral infection. In addition, certain types of viral infections, such as HIV/AIDS, are not self-limiting and cause serious complications and are eventually fatal.

 

There are many types of viruses that cause a wide variety of viral infections or viral diseases. For example, there are over 200 different viruses that can cause a cold or an upper respiratory infection. Other common viruses include the influenza virus, which causes influenza or the flu. The Epstein-Barr virus and the cytomegalovirus cause infectious mononucleosis. The varicella zoster virus causes shingles, and chickenpox, and HIV causes AIDS.

 

Viral diseases are extremely widespread infections caused by viruses, a type of microorganism. There are many types of viruses that cause a wide variety of viral diseases. The most common type of viral disease is the common cold, which is caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). Other common viral diseases include:

  1. Chickenpox
  2. Flu (Influenza)
  3. Herpes
  4. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS)
  5. Human papillomavirus(HPV)
  6. Infectious mononucleosis
  7. Mumps,measles and rubella
  8. Shingles
  9. Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
  10. Viral hepatitis
  11. Viral meningitis
  12. Viral Pneumonia

 

Viral diseases are contagious and spread from person to person when a virus enters the body and begins to multiply.Common ways that viruses spread from person to person include:

SYMPTOMS:

Symptoms of viral infection vary depending on the type of viral infection, the area of the body that is infected, the age and health history of the patient and other factors. The symptoms of viral infection can also resemble symptoms of other diseases, such as bacterial infections.

Symptoms may affect almost any area of the body or body system and include fever,chills, headache, stiff neck, irritability, enlarged glands, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, rash, abdominal pain, sore throat, ear pain, cough,weight loss, fatigue, body aches, and other flu-like symptoms.

In infants, signs of viral infection can include excessive crying, excessive sleepiness, difficulty with feeding, and a bulging of the soft spot on the top of the head.

 

Many viral infections, such as upper respiratory infection and seasonal influenza, are self limiting. People who are generally healthy are often able to survive these infections without developing serious complications. However, even young and healthy people may develop serious complications to some viral infections. For example, women infected with certain strains of HPV are at risk for developingcervical cancer.

Certain risk factors make it more likely that a person will develop serious, even lethal, complications from a viral infection. People who are generally most at risk for developing complications include those who have a compromised immune system due to such diseases as HIV/AIDS or combined immunodeficiencies. People who take certain medications, such as corticosteroids, which suppress the body’s natural immune response, are also at risk. Other risk factors include malnutrition, high stress levels and being very young or very old.

Complications of a viral infection can include a secondary bacterial infection, pneumonia,dehydration, shock, the development of some forms of cancer and coma.

Symptoms of viral diseases vary depending on the specific type of virus causing infection, the area of the body that is infected, the age and health history of the patient, and other factors. The symptoms of viral diseases can affect almost any area of thebody or body system. Symptoms of viral diseases can include:

  1. Flu- like symptoms (fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, cough, aches and pains)
  2. Gastrointestinal disturbances, such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
  3. Irritability
  4. Malaise (general ill feeling)
  5. Rash
  6. Sneezing
  7. Stuffy nose, nasal congestion, runny nose, or postnasal drip
  8. Swollen lymph nodes
  9. Swollen tonsils
  10. Unexplained weight loss

WHAT CAUSES VIRAL DISEASES?

Viral infections occur when a virus enters the body and invades the inside of the body’s cells in order to reproduce. If the body’s immune system is unable to fight off the virus, it multiplies and spreads to other cells, repeating the process and leading to a widespread infection.

 

TYPES OF VIRUSES:

There are many types of viruses that cause a wide variety of viral infections or viral diseases. In fact, there are more than 200different viruses that can cause a cold or an upper respiratory infection. Other common viruses include the following:

  1. Epstein-Barr virus causes infectious mononucleosis (cytomegalovirus causes a very similar disease in some people)
  2. Human papillomaviruses (HPV) cause HPV infection, cervical dysplasia, genital warts, and cervical cancer.
  3. Influenza viruses,such as H1N1, cause influenza (flu).
  4. Respiratory syncytical virus (RSV) causes lower respiratory tract infections in young children.
  5. Rhinoviruses cause the common cold
  6. Rotavirus, enteroviruses and noroviruses cause viral gastroenteritis.
  7. Varicella zoster virus causes shingles and chickenpox
  8. West Nile virus causes west nile fever.

TREATMENT:

Viral diseases can be very difficult to treat because viruses live inside the body’s cells where they are protected from medicines in the blood stream.

  1. No vaccine or specific antiviral treatments for West Nile virus infection are available.
  2. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms
  3. In severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care.

The first step in treating viral infection is preventing its occurrence and spread. Vaccines are available to prevent some common viral infections, such as chickenpox, shingles, influenza, HPV,hepatitis B, hepatitis A, measles and mumps.

 

Prevention of the spread of harmful viruses that cause viral infection also includes frequent hand washing and covering the mouth and nose with a tissue during sneezing or coughing. It is also important to avoid contact with a person who has a viral disease. Prevention of sexually transmitted viral infections, such as HIV/AIDS includes abstaining from sexual contact. The proper and consistent use of male and/or female condoms also provides some protection.

 

Treatment of viral infections varies depending on the specific virus and other factors. However, treatment of viral infections generally includes rest, increased fluids, good nutrition, and may require hospitalization and intensive care, especially if complications occur.

Antibiotics treat bacterial infections and are ineffective for the treatment of viral infections.

 

Researchers developed the first antiviral drug in the late 20th century. The drug, acyclovir, was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat herpes simplex virus infections. Only a few other antiviral medicines are available to prevent and treat viral infections and diseases.

Common Diseases during Cold Weather

Some health problems, such as asthma, sore throat and cold sores, are triggered or worsened by cold weather.

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COMMON COLDS:

  1. It is caused by more than 200 types of viruses, with coronavirus, adenovirus, and rhinovirus as the most well-known.
  2. The reason why colds are more common during cold days is because people tend to stay inside when it gets chilly out.
  3. Indoor air is trapped, so when people sneeze, others catch the viruses that come along with it.
  4. You can help prevent colds by washing your hands regularly.
  5. This destroys bugs that you may have picked up from touching surfaces used by other people.
  6. It’s also important to keep the house and any household items such as cups, glasses and towels clean, especially if someone in your house is ill.

SORE THROAT:

  1. Sore throats are common in winter and are almost always caused by viral infections.
  2. There’s some evidence that changes in temperature, such as going from a warm, centrally heated room to the icy outdoors, can also affect the throat.
  3. Another year-round disease that becomes more widespread when it gets cold.
  4. It’s either caused by bacterial/viral infection or throat irritation from low humidity.
  5. While not exactly a serious illness, it is nevertheless painful and annoying.
  6. If it becomes too unbearable to wait for the condition to self-terminate, one can take warm, clear, and neutral beverages as an alleviatory means or consult a physician.

ASTHMA:

  1. Cold air is a major trigger of asthma symptomssuch as wheezing and shortness of breath.
  2. People with asthma should be especially careful in winter.
  3. The triggers for this congenital respiratory disease vary from one patient to another.
  4. To some who have it, cold weather is one of those – and a powerful one at that.
  5. Once triggered,asthma constricts the airways, causing difficult, short, and painful breathing.
  6. To prevent this, it’s advisable for asthmatic people to stay indoors and wear appropriate clothing during cold weather.
  7. Also, it’s best to carry doctor-prescribed inhalers in case, as an attack can happen anytime, anywhere.

NOROVIRUS:

  1. Also known as the winter vomiting bug, norovirus is an extremely infectious stomach bug.
  2. It can strike all year round, but is more common in winter and in places such as hotels and schools.
  3. The illness is unpleasant, but it’s usually over within a couple of days.

PAINFUL JOINTS:

  1. Many people with arthritis say their joints become more painful in winter, though it’s not clear why this is the case.
  2. Only joint symptoms such as pain and stiffness are affected by the weather.
  3. There’s no evidence that changes in the weather cause joint damage.

COLD SORES:

  1. Most of us recognise that cold sores are a sign that we’re run down or under stress.
  2. While there’s no cure for cold sores, you can reduce the chances of getting one by looking after yourself through winter.

HEART ATTACKS:

  1. Heart attacks are more common in winter.
  2. This may be because cold snaps increase blood pressure and put more strain on the heart.
  3. Your heart also has to work harder to maintain body heat when it’s cold.

COLD HANDS:

  1. Raynaud’s phenomenon is a common condition that makes your fingers and toes change colour and become very painful in cold weather.
  2. Fingers can go white, then blue, then red, and throb and tingle.
  3. It’s a sign of poor circulation in the small blood vessels of the hands and feet.
  4. In severe cases, medication can help, but most people live with their symptoms.

DRY SKIN:

  1. Dry skin is a common condition and is often worse during the winter, when environmental humidity is low.
  2. Because of the low humidity during cold weather, the skin easily dries up, causing it to itch and crack.
  3. As a remedy, one can apply moisturizer to stop the skin’s moisture from evaporating.
  4. Also, taking warm showers can help. Hot showers will not only worsen the condition, but also make your hair look dry and dull.

FLU (INFLUENZA):

  1. Flu is a major killer of vulnerable people. People aged 65 and over and people with long-term health conditions, including diabetes and kidney disease, are particularly at risk.
  2. The best way to prevent getting flu is to have the flu jab (or flu nasal spray for children aged 2 to 18).
  3. The flu vaccine gives good protection against flu and lasts for one year.
  4. This infection shares a lot of similarities with the common cold: they’re both upper respiratory tract infections, perennially present, and caused by a wide plethora of viruses.
  5. They also share a handful of symptoms: headaches, a clogged nose, and cough. Because of these likenesses, it’s easy to mistake one for the other.
  6. In order to know which is which,take note that influenza causes joint pains, body weakness, and fever that can reach up to 41°C.