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What Are the 5 Serious Viral Infections You Can Encounter?

Dr. Rahul Verma 162 Views
Updated: 17 May 2024
Published: 14 May 2024

Viral infections constitute a significant portion of global health concerns, ranging from mild inconveniences to severe, potentially life-threatening conditions. Unlike bacteria, which can be targeted by antibiotics, viral infections often require our immune system to step in and fight the battle. While many viral infections cause mild discomfort, some can lead to serious health complications. In this blog, we’ll talk about the 5 most common viral infections.

1. Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

In most cases, Ebola virus disease presents a bunch of symptoms, typically beginning with:

  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Pain in your muscles, joints, and body 

Most patients also have weakness to the point of exhaustion; they may feel unable to stand or even breathe. Other symptoms include: 

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Bloody urine

All these symptoms may develop very rapidly and lead over days or even hours to organ failure and death.

The Ebola virus is primarily transmitted through direct contact with the body fluids of infected individuals or animals—most commonly blood, saliva, urine, and breast milk. In addition, contact may occur across contaminated surfaces or objects. There, the virus may survive for days if not weeks.

Prevention measures against Ebola include: 

  • Washing your hands diligently
  • Avoiding contact with infected individuals or animals
  • Wearing in healthcare settings protective clothing such as gloves

There is also an important role of public-health education and awareness campaigns in preventing outbreaks.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola virus disease; however, supportive care can greatly improve chances. This involves intravenous fluids replacement, electrolyte management, treating any complications, and experimental therapies under controlled conditions.

2. HIV/AIDS

HIV infection can at first cause flu-like symptoms, but AIDS comes afterward: with a worn-out immune system, not fighting different germs and fungi like one is meant to. Symptoms of AIDS include: 

  • Weight loss that persists despite normal food intake
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Night sweats
  • Fever generally coming on in early afternoon after sleeping until about ten or eleven o'clock in the morning

All these may become regular events for some people in the late stages of AIDS. One more common symptom may include swollen lymph glands particularly those near a person's neck or armpits. These are tender when touched but rapidly harden into unmovable clumps.

Preventive strategies for HIV/AIDS include things such as: 

  • Having safe sex
  • Using sterile needles for injections
  • Testing for HIV regularly

For people at high risk of HIV infection, they can take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The cornerstone of HIV treatment, antiretroviral therapy (ART), suppresses viral replication and restores the immune function. In the long term, this helps prevent serious diseases. Early diagnosis and treatment usually result in lower contagiousness and less spreading of the disease to other people.

3. Hepatitis B and C

Hepatitis B infection can cause acute or chronic liver inflammation, with symptoms such as fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. This type of liver damage has different stages and implications from that caused by HCV, chronic hepatitis B, or slowly progressive cirrhosis, which will eventually lead to liver cancer.

Blood-to-blood contact and the sharing of dirty needles are responsible for transmitting hepatitis C. Blood transfusions, and in some rare cases, sexual intercourse, are likewise effective means of contaminant transmission. On rare occasions, Hepatitis C can be passed from mother to child during childbirth. The likelihood of viral particles passing through the placenta is low. 

Hepatitis B can be controlled by vaccination. It is extraordinarily effective as a means of prevention. Other forms of prevention include using condoms and avoiding the exchange of blood products, needles, or nasal douches, providing infection control procedures for healthcare settings, and moderation in healthcare practices as appropriate to the risk level. For hepatitis C, the harm reduction programs that provide access to clean needles are the foundation of preventing transmission among high-risk populations.

4. Influenza (Flu)

Influenza infection typically presents with sudden onset of fever, chills, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and nasal congestion. Complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and exacerbation of underlying medical conditions can occur, especially in high-risk individuals such as the elderly, young children, and individuals with chronic health conditions.

Influenza viruses spread through respiratory droplets when infected individuals cough, sneeze, or talk. The virus can also survive on surfaces and objects, leading to indirect transmission through hand contact. Influenza can spread rapidly in crowded environments such as schools, workplaces, and healthcare facilities.

Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone six months of age and older to reduce the risk of infection and severe complications. Other preventive measures include practising good respiratory hygiene, frequent handwashing, and avoiding close contact with sick individuals, particularly during flu season.

Antiviral medications such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) can help reduce the severity and duration of influenza symptoms if taken early in the course of illness. Supportive care, rest, and hydration are also important for recovery, especially for individuals with severe illness or complications.

5. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, presents with a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild respiratory symptoms to severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), multiorgan failure, and death. Common symptoms include: 

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea

The primary mode of transmission is through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Airborne transmission may occur in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation. Additionally, the virus can spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.

Prevention strategies for COVID-19 include: 

  • Vaccination
  • Wearing face masks in public settings
  • Practising physical distancing
  • Avoiding large gatherings
  • Practising hand hygiene
  • Following public health guidelines and recommendations

Vaccination has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalisation, and death from COVID-19.

Treatment for COVID-19 varies depending on the severity of symptoms and may include supportive care, supplemental oxygen, antiviral medications (e.g., Remdesivir), Corticosteroids, and in severe cases, mechanical ventilation or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Vaccination has been instrumental in reducing the burden of COVID-19 and preventing severe outcomes.

Conclusion

Serious viral infections pose formidable challenges to global public health, necessitating multifaceted approaches to prevention, surveillance, and treatment. By understanding these infections in detail, individuals can arm themselves with knowledge to mitigate their impact and contribute to collective efforts in combating these viruses. With continued research, innovation, and collaboration, we can strive towards a future where the threat of serious viral infections is minimised, and the health and well-being of communities worldwide are safeguarded.

Regular health check-ups can help you diagnose health problems early and take the necessary steps to prevent them. So, book a blood test with Pathkind and get treated for infections today!

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