What is a Viral Infection?

A viral infection is the invasion of a harmful virus within the body.Viral infections cause various diseases that can be infectious and lead to severe illnesses. Viral infections are transmitted by contact with animals, humans, or insects that are infected. The main symptoms include high fever, tiredness, dizziness, muscle aches, and more.  In some scenarios, viral infections can give rise to serious complications like dehydration, pneumonia, or even bleeding. Generally, the typical treatments are the consumption of anti-viral medicines that mainly focus on relieving the symptoms so that you can get the rest you need and recover without further complications. These medicines are most effective when taken in the initial stage of the viral infection. Read more to learn how to prevent the causes, and effectively fight off the symptoms of viral infections.

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Viral Infection - What Does it Mean?

Infectious diseases lead to severe illnesses that are caused by viral infections. They can destroy tiny blood vessel walls, rendering them leaky. The tendency of the blood to clot can also conflict with them. The resulting inner bleeding can range from relatively mild to life-threatening. Viral infections are transmitted by contact with animals, humans or insects that are infected. Viral fever cannot be treated by any existing therapy. In some cases, the antiviral drug Ribavirin can help to shorten the course of some infections and prevent complications. For only a few forms of viral infections, vaccines are available. Until additional vaccines are developed, prevention is the best option.

Picture of Viral Infection

Viral Infection

Image Source: Indiana Polyclinic

What Causes Viral Infections?

In a number of animal and insect hosts, most often mosquitoes, ticks, rodents or bats, the viruses that cause infections live naturally. Typically, each of these hosts lives in a specific geographic region, so each disease typically occurs only where the host of that virus normally lives. Some viral infections may also be transferred from person to person, and if an infected person moves from one place to another, they can spread.

Know About the Types of Viral Infection

Respiratory Viral Infections

These viral infections affect the nose, lungs, and throat. Respiratory viral infections spread by inhaling droplets that contain virus particles. Some examples of respiratory viral infections are:

 

  • Rhinovirus: This virus is often the cause of a common cold. The symptoms of this virus are coughing, sneezing, headache, and sore throat. These symptoms usually last for up to two weeks.

  • Seasonal influenza: The symptoms of this infection are more severe than a common cold and include severe fatigue and body aches.

  • Respiratory syncytial virus: This can cause upper respiratory infections (like colds) and lower respiratory infections (like bronchiolitis and pneumonia).

Viral Skin Infections

Such skin infections can range from mild to severe and can often lead to rashes or bumps. Some examples of viral skin infections are:

 

  • Molluscum contagiosum: This virus causes small, flesh-coloured bumps. Children between the age of 1-10 years are most affected by this virus. However, it can infect people of any age. The bumps usually disappear without any treatment after 6-12 months. This infection is spread through close skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.

  • Herpes simplex virus-1: This common virus causes cold sores. Herpes is transmitted through the saliva by sharing food/drinks or kissing an infected person.

  • Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV): This virus causes chickenpox with symptoms like itchy, oozing blisters, high fever, and fatigue. People who were previously infected with chickenpox are at the risk of developing shingles, which is caused by the same virus. This virus is spread by physical contact with the chickenpox blisters, mucus, or saliva of an infected person. It can also spread through the air by sneezing and coughing.

Foodborne Viral Infections

Viruses are said to be the most common cause of food poisoning. Some of the common foodborne viral infections are:

 

  • Hepatitis A: This viral infection affects the liver and can last for a few weeks to several months. Symptoms of this infection may include yellow skin, nausea, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite. This infection is usually transmitted when a person comes in contact with food or water that is contaminated by the faeces of an infected patient, or through close physical contact with an infected person.

  • Rotavirus: This virus causes severe, watery diarrhoea, which can also lead to dehydration. Infected patients shed rotavirus in their stool. This is how rotavirus spreads in the environment and infects others.

Sexually transmitted infections (STI)

Sexually transmitted viral infections can spread through contact with bodily fluids or through blood. Some common sexually transmitted viral infections are:

 

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV): HPV can be of different types. While some may cause genital warts, others may increase the risk of cervical cancer.

  • Hepatitis B: The hepatitis B virus causes inflammation of the liver. It is transmitted through contaminated blood and body fluids. Some infected people may not show any symptoms, while others may show flu-like symptoms.

  • Genital herpes: This is an STI that is most often caused by herpes simplex virus- 2 (HSV-2) and rarely HSV-1. This infection cannot be cured and can often lead to recurring painful sores. Antiviral medication may help decrease the number and length of the genital herpes outbreak.

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): The HIV virus affects certain types of cells of the immune system. Progression of this disease reduces the body’s ability to fight against diseases and infections, leading to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, commonly known as AIDS.

Learn About the Symptoms of Viral Infection

Viral infection symptoms and signs differ depending on the patient and the specific type of virus causing the infection. Other factors include the infected area of the body, the health history of the patient and the age. In general, the initial signs and symptoms can include:

 

  • High fever

  • Tiredness

  • Dizziness

  • Aches in muscles or joints

  • Feebleness

In some scenarios, viral infections can give rise to serious complications like dehydration or pneumonia. Bleeding can be caused by serious cases of certain forms of viral hemorrhagic fever. Additional signs and symptoms of serious virus infections may include:

 

  • Septic shock

  • Malfunctions in the nervous system

  • Coma

  • Failure of the kidney or liver

  • Respiratory insufficiency

The symptoms of viral infections can affect nearly any area of the body system. Hence, it is important to keep a close watch.

How are Viral Infections Transmitted?

The transmission route varies according to the particular virus. Some viral infections are spread by mosquito bites or tick bites. Others are spread by contact with blood or semen that is contaminated. From tainted rat faeces or urine, a few types may be inhaled. You may become infected and then develop symptoms after you return home if you travel to an area where a specific infection is common. Symptoms can take up to 21 days to grow.

Various ways of transmitting a viral infection include the following:

 

  • Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water

  • If a virus-infected animal or insect bites you

  • Breathing virus-contaminated air-borne droplets

  • Sharing needles for drug use or tattoos, with an infected person

  • Touching infected faeces and not cleaning your hands before eating

  • Touching surfaces contaminated with a virus

How can Viral Infection be Diagnosed?

  • Some of the common viral infections like measles, chickenpox, or rubella may be diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms.

  • For infections like influenza and COVID-19, which occur during an epidemic and cause similar symptoms, laboratory diagnosis is important for detecting the virus.

Possible Viral Infection Treatments

Treatment of viral infections depends on the specific virus and many other important factors. Generally, typical treatment procedures include anti-viral medicines that focus on relieving the symptoms so that you can get the rest you need and recover without further complications. These medicines are most effective when taken in the initial stage of the viral infection.

How to Tackle Viral Infection at Home?

General home treatments for viral infections include:

  • Getting enough rest and sleep

  • Drinking extra fluids

  • Maintaining good nutrition

When to See a Physician?

While most viral infections may be manageable, it is best to seek medical help in the very early stage. Especially if you are about to fly to a tropical country, it is advisable to see a doctor to ensure that you have obtained all available vaccines and pre-travel recommendations for keeping safe. Consult a physician, preferably one who specialises in infectious diseases, if you experience signs and symptoms after you return home. A doctor may be able to identify your illness and handle it faster. Ensure you let your doctor know the places you have been to.

Viral Infections Risk Factors

Your risk of being infected with a particular virus will be increased by actually living in or travelling to a region where it is widespread. Your risk can be increased even further by many other factors, including:

 

  • Being in contact with sick people

  • Sharing needles for intravenous medicine use

  • Having unsafe sex

  • Being exposed to blood or other body fluids that are contaminated

Complications in Viral Infection

Viral infections can bring down the defence mechanism of the body in some cases. This may result in serious and life-threatening complications. Some of the potential complications include:

 

  • Dehydration

  • Seizures

  • Pneumonia

  • Acute bronchitis

  • Cervical cancer

  • Frequent life-threatening, opportunistic infections

  • Secondary bacterial infection

  • Worsening of asthma

  • Coma and shock

  • Sinusitis

Viral infections can damage your:

 

  • Brain

  • Eyes

  • Heart

  • Liver

  • Lungs

The harm can be serious enough to cause death in some instances.

How to Prevent Viral Infection?

Preventing viral infections poses enormous challenges, especially in developing nations. Many of the social, economic, and ecological variables that lead to the sudden emergence and spread of infectious diseases are issues that have no simple solutions. Some of these variables are:

 

  • Conflicts and migration

  • Habitat degradation

  • Lack of sanitation and adequate medical care

Some of the preventive measures against viral infections are:

 

  • Take precautions to protect yourself from infection if you live in, work in, or fly to places where viral fevers are common. When contact with blood or body fluids is required, you must use suitable protective barriers such as gloves, eye and face shields, and gowns.

  • Precautions can also involve the careful handling, disinfection and disposal of specimens and waste from laboratories.

Wrapping Up

Widespread viral infections in an area are a sign of unhygienic and unsanitary living conditions and could leave a person exposed to the risk of more worrying diseases. If you believe that you have a viral infection, it is best to have your doctor check it at the earliest and seek care. While one can never completely stop contracting a viral infection or some other disease, if they are ever diagnosed, one can always ensure that they are better prepared. Such diseases are a part of the preventive health benefits provided with various health insurance plans available at Finserv MARKETS.

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FAQs on Viral Infection

  • ✔️What’s a viral infection?

    A viral infection is any illness or health condition that is caused by a virus.

  • ✔️What are the infections caused by viruses?

     Viral infection causes different diseases. Some of these include:

    • Smallpox

    • Common cold

    • Chickenpox

    • Measles

    • Hepatitis

    • Influenza

    • Shingles

    • Herpes

    • Polio

    • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

    • Cold Sores

    • Ebola

    • SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)

    • Some types of Cancer

  • ✔️What are the symptoms of a viral infection?

     Some of the most common symptoms of a viral infection include:

    • High Fever

    • Fatigue

    • Headache

    • Diarrhoea

    • Sore throat

    • Cough

    • Runny nose

    • Skin rash

    • Nausea and vomiting

    • Muscle ache

    • Sleepiness

    • Confusion

  • ✔️What is the best way to prevent influenza?

    The influenza vaccine may help you stay protected from influenza.

  • ✔️Can I get chickenpox more than once?

    In most cases, a person is immune to chickenpox after having the disease once. However, second cases of chickenpox can occur in people with an impaired immune system.