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Viral Infection


Updated May 16, 2014

Male doctor examining girls throat using tongue depressor
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A viral infection is any type of infection that is caused by a virus.

What is a Virus?

A virus is a germ that is smaller than a bacteria. Viruses are encapsulated by a protective coating so they are more difficult to kill than bacteria. They are harder to treat because they are not susceptible to antibiotics like bacteria are because of their protective coating. However, viruses cannot grow or exist without host cells - they must be in a living organism (such as the human body) to survive.

Common Viral Infections

Viral infections can cause illnesses as minor as the common cold and as severe as AIDS. Many times people will be diagnosed with a viral infection but not get any more specific information about the virus that is causing the symptoms. Usually when this happens, the symptoms are relatively minor and you will recover without any treatment. Health care providers don't always know the exact virus that is causing the illness. This is when you will get the diagnosis of a "viral infection" with no specific name.

Other common viral infections include:

Treating Viral Infections

Antibiotics do not kill viruses and the use of them for viral infections just leads to antibiotic resistance. There are only a few antiviral medications available to treat very specific viruses, and they are not always effective.

However, there are vaccines available to help prevent many infections. If you have a minor illness and your health care provider tells you that it is a viral infection, the best thing to do is to treat the symptoms if you are able to and just let it run its course.


"Viral Infections." Medlineplus 23 July 08. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 08 Aug 08.

Also Known As: Virus
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