A virus is a tiny agent (germ) that lives inside living cells or host cells. Viruses need living cells to replicate or reproduce. There are thousands of viruses, some more common than others.
For example, the common cold and the flu are viruses, but so are COVID-19, Ebola, and HIV. Viral infections that may be minor in healthy individuals can be quite severe for people with a weakened immune system. Almost any virus can lead to sepsis.
Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s life-threatening response to infection or injury. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections.
While bacterial infections are the most common cause of sepsis, viral infections can cause sepsis too. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die.
Symptoms of viral infections
The signs and symptoms of a viral infection depend on what virus you have and how it affects your body. Here are a few examples:
- Muscle ache
- Sore throat
- Stiff neck
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
Treatment for Viral Infections
Viral infections are usually treated by managing the symptoms. This often means using over-the-counter pain relievers to ease pain, reduce fever, rest for fatigue, etc., until the virus is gone. The viruses themselves are not easy to treat.
For example, hepatitis C treatment involves a strict medication regimen for several weeks up to a few months before the virus is cleared from your body. Other viruses don’t have a cure, but medications may speed healing if they are taken early enough after exposure to the virus. These include medications for influenza and shingles (herpes zoster). Medications for other viruses, such as HIV, keep the virus in check but aren’t a cure. They can prevent the virus from replicating and causing more damage.
Examples of viral infections
Viruses “hijack” normal, living cells in your body. They use these cells to replicate and multiply, eventually destroying the host cell – this is what makes you sick.
Unlike bacterial infections that respond to antibiotics, viral infections are not so easy to treat. Many, like colds, run their course, and your body heals on its own, but others, like HIV, do not.
Some of the more common viruses include:
- Influenza (the flu)
- HIV, which can lead to AIDS
- Meningitis (there is also bacterial meningitis)
- Pneumonia (there is also bacterial pneumonia)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)