June 11th, 2011
This is an introduction to the world of viruses. Virus is a Latin word used by doctors that means "your guess is as good as mine." OK, well, actually it's from the Latin word virulent meaning toxin or poison. They named it that because people who contracted a virus often displayed symptoms similar to poisoning, like fever, cold sweats, vomiting, bleeding out your eyes, death, stuff like that. Viruses are not at all related to bacteria. Unlike bacteria, which replicates on its own while listening to smooth jazz, viruses require a host cell and a bottle of wine to get the job done. Once infected, the cell begins replicating the virus until it explodes, releasing the replicated viruses in a process called lysis. Viruses are not technically alive, which makes it hard to get rid of them. They are essentially packets of DNA or RNA that float around infecting cells and killing them.
Their origin is not completely known, but their impact as a group has been considerable. Billions of people have died in the grip of a viral infection. So, how do you get rid of a virus? In the cases of measles, mumps, rubella, polio, smallpox, and HPV (genital warts), there have been immunizations developed. You may be thinking to yourself, why wasn't the flu included in that list"? The reason is there are so many strains of influenza that total immunization is not possible. The course of treatment is pretty intuitive for the following viruses, as they are considered fairly common infections: influenza, the common cold, shingles, mononucleosis, chicken pox, bronchiolitis, croup, and laryngitis. For the purpose of this article, we will be using this group of common infections.
Treatments for Viruses
Technically, there is no cure for influenza. It mutates and adapts so quickly that it is impossible to develop a vaccine that will protect you from all the strains. So, medical professionals focus on preventative measures and treating the symptoms. The first thing you can do is get the immunization for the year. It is a shot in the dark, but it's an educated one. Secondly, reduce your stress during flu season. Stress is hard on your body and weakens your immune system. If you get the flu, go see the doctor, stay at home, and don't get anyone else sick. Get antiviral medication from your doctor and take them as prescribed. Don't forget to drink plenty of liquids with electrolytes in them.
With the advent of a vaccine for chicken pox, millions of children will have to go to school 4 or 5 more days then we did. The vaccine is not 100% successful ,and if your child gets the pox post-vaccine, it will be an abbreviated experience with your child only missing a couple days of school. Chicken pox is caused by the virus varicella zoster, and once you get it you have it for life. For the most part, you don't have to worry about it. But a period of high stress and a weakened immune system can reactivate the virus. As an adult the virus will manifest itself as shingles, a much more irritating form of the virus that takes a little longer to get rid of. The course of treatment for this virus is rest and plenty of liquids.
The most common cause of laryngitis is a viral infection. It can also be caused by a bacteria, the overuse of vocal chords, and smoking. The course of treatment for laryngitis is sucking on throat lozenges, gargling warm salt water, rest, and taking aspirin for the pain. If you have trouble breathing, a fever, or are coughing up brown, green, or yellow phlegm, you should consult a physician.
Acute viral nasopharyngitis (a.k.a. the common cold) is caused by a infection of the upper respiratory system. There are no approved medical treatments for the common cold. Ultimately, it is left to your immune system to get rid of this infection. You can take supplements to boost your immune system like vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc gluconate. You will also want to rest and drink plenty of electrolyte-laden liquids. If your immune system is working well, it will create white blood cells, and an average of seven days later, you will be rid of the infection.
Mononucleosis is transmitted by saliva and has an incubation period of up to eight weeks. Because it is transmitted via spit, it is known as the kissing disease, even though you can transmit it other ways like by sneezing on your sister. Try explaining that one to your classmates. There are two viral agents that cause mononucleosis: the first is the Epstein-Barr virus and the second is cytomegalovirus. The more common of the two is Epstein-Barr. The treatment for mono is rest. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to reduce swelling and fever. There are some pharmaceutical options; valaciclovir has shown some success. If you are experiencing breathing complications, see a doctor.
Our immune system is the best defense that we have against viruses.
After doing research for this article, there is one thing that rang true for all viruses: our immune system is our best defense against viruses. So, do things that help your immune system. Reduce stress in your life. Take a break once in a while, and don't take on so many projects at once. Cross contamination is a major factor in the spread of disease, so wash your hands frequently, especially when you are in public. Eliminating excessive sugar is a great way to boost your immune system. Drink less soda and coffee, and drink more tea and water. Take vitamins and supplements. Sleeping is when you recharge your batteries and immune system, so don't skimp on it. If there is an immunization available, consider getting a vaccination. They boost T-cell counts, helping your immune system to fight off specific viruses. Ultimately, following this advice will leave you more time to live and less time in bed sweating, vomiting, and reeling from pain.