Viral Infections: Overview

Viral infections are caused by viruses, which are tiny microbes that spread in the body. Viruses are actually made up of tiny pieces of DNA or RNA, and are smaller even than single-celled bacteria. Viruses are very common, with examples including respiratory viral infections (e.g. common cold, flu, etc.), digestive viral infections, and many, many others. Viral infections are often contagious, but not all types are. Viruses need to be distinguished from other types of microbes such as bacteria, fungal infections, parasites, and other types of disease. The distinction is often important because viruses cannot be treated by antibiotics (which are used to treat bacterial infections), and antiviral drugs may sometimes be used. Some types of viruses may need no treatment and the body may defend itself adequately and recover with symptomatic treatments only. Other types of viruses can be more serious.

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