Infections and Viruses

Differences and Similarities Between Infections and Viruses

Hands being washed in a sinkBacterial infections and viral infections can both be spread in similar ways. Bacteria or viruses can be passed from one person to another by shaking hands or even just touching the person who already had the infection. If a person has a cold, sneezing or coughing in the presence of another person can also spread the infection. Transmission of body fluids such as saliva, blood or semen through injections or sexual contact is another way that that these infections can be spread.

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What are Bacterial and Viral Infections?

Viruses and bacteria are both microbial organisms but their structures are completely different.

Bacteria are complex, unicellular creatures that contain the entire genetic blueprint that is required to divide and multiply. The majority of bacteria are harmless and some are even helpful. Less than one percent of bacteria are disease causing.

Viruses on the other hand are simple organisms. They have limited genetic information and cannot survive in the absence of a host. They can only survive by attaching themselves to the host’s cells and they then use these cells to reproduce. Sometimes, they reprogram the host cells to produce new viruses, causing the old cells to burst and die. In other cases, the host cells that they attach themselves to turn cancerous.

Another significant difference between the two is that most viruses cause diseases and they only attack specific cells. Some viruses will only attack cells in the blood, whereas others may only attack cells in the respiratory or the liver. This is unlike bacteria where most are harmless and only a few strains cause diseases.

How to Prevent the Spread of Infections and Viruses

The most effective way to prevent the spread of either a bacterial or a viral infection is to wash your hands thoroughly as often as possible especially if you have any of the symptoms of flu such as a cold, cough or sneezing. If you do shake hands with someone who has the flu symptoms, avoid touching your eyes or nose until after you have washed your hands. Staying at home is advisable not only to prevent the spread of the viral infection but also to avoid the risk of catching a bacterial infection while your immunity is low.

Bacterial and viral infections require different treatments. Instead of guessing what type of infection you have, it is best to get a professional medical consultation to prevent the infection from getting worse.