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Bacterial vs Viral Infections: Similarities and differences in causes, types, symptoms & diseases caused. Understanding the term ‘infection’. When a foreign body or organism enters our body and causes harm, they result in an infection or a disease. This foreign organism uses our body’s healthy cells to colonize, sustain and reproduce itself. These infection causing organisms are known as pathogens and examples include viruses, bacteria, prions and fungi. Pathogens can adapt to our body’s conditions easily and multiply quickly. Bacteria and Virus are two such ‘foreign bodies’ that can lead to infection and diseases in humans. So, what is the difference between the two?

What are bacteria? Bacteria are tiny microorganisms that are made up of a single cell. They are of various types and have a large variety of shapes and structural features. Bacteria can live in almost every imaginable environment, including inside the human body or on it. The good news is that only a few bacteria cause infections in humans. They are called pathogenic bacteria.

What is a virus? Viruses, although another type of tiny microorganism, are even smaller than bacteria. Like bacteria, they can be of various types, and come with different shapes and features. Viruses are parasitic, which means they need living cells or tissues as a ‘host environment’ where they can live, grow and multiply. Viruses can attack the cells of your body, using the elements of your cells to grow and multiply. Some viruses even kill host cells as part of their life cycle.

What are the differences (and similarities) between bacteria and virus - and the infections and diseases caused by them.

SIMILARITIES 1. Both bacterial infections and viral infections can be contagious – that is, be transmitted from one individual to another through similar means and via similar fashion. 2. Not only that – both bacterial infections and viral infections can be spread by the bite of an infected insect, or via the consumption of contaminated food or water. 3. Viral infections and bacterial infections can often have similar symptoms too - owing to which it can sometimes be difficult, at least at the outset, to figure out whether the ailment has been caused by a Bacteria or a virus. In such cases, a ‘culture test’ may be advised by the doctor or medical professional, which is done by taking a sample of one’s blood, urine or stool for inspection and investigation in the Lab.


DIFFERENCES 1. Not all bacteria cause infections and diseases, and there are plenty of ‘beneficial bacteria’ as well – such as probiotic bacteria that inhabit our intestines and can promote digestive health. Viruses, on the other hand, are mostly harmful in constitution and cause infections and maladies in humans. 2. Unlike bacteria (which are highly resilient and comfortable in nearly every environment), viruses need a ‘host organism’ to survive. Viruses inhabit the host body and utilize to live and flourish. 3. Another difference between the two is that bacterial diseases are usually treated by antibiotics, while antibiotic don’t work for viruses (treatment for viral infections are therefore either anti-viral medication or preventive caution).

VIRAL INFECTIONS: SYMPTOMS, TYPES & TREATMENT What is a virus and viral infection? Almost every ecosystem on earth has viruses. They are the most plentiful biological system on this planet. Infection that is caused by a virus in the body is a viral infection. Different viruses can infect and cause a viral infection in nearly any type of body part or tissue, from the skin to the brain, depending on the virus and your state of health. Common cold, flu and warts are some well-known infectious diseases caused by viruses. On the other hand, severe ailments like smallpox, Ebola and even HIV/AIDS can also result from viruses. Virus attacks normal living cells and use those cells to reproduce other viruses, and ultimate result in a viral infection.

What are the symptoms of a viral infection? A viral infection can lead to a variety of symptoms, some common and some rare. Some of the symptoms of a viral infection are: ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪

High fever. Headache. Runny nose. The chills. Coughing. Tiredness or fatigue. Sore throat. Diarrhea. Abdominal pain. Nausea and vomiting.


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Skin rash. Muscle ache. Neck stiffness. Loss of sensation. Seizures. Paralysis of the limbs. Drowsiness. Confusion. Weakened bladder. Damaged bowel function.

Are virus infections contagious? Viral infections including flu, colds, laryngitis, croup, bronchitis (chest colds) and most sore throats are more contagious than bacterial infection, hence we need to be very alert for the signs and symptoms of virus infections in people around us, and be mindful of our own hygienic practices as well so that we don’t contact a virus infection easily.

What are the various types of viral infections? Virus infections can be categorized on the basis of the body part they affect. On the basis of that, a virus infection can be classified as under: •

Viral infections affecting the lungs: Respiratory infection is the most common type of virusled infection. It affects the upper airways, throat and lungs. Common cold, sore throat, sinusitis, influenza and pneumonia are some of the most common respiratory infections caused by a viral infection. People suffering from heart or lung disorder, infants and older people are particularly susceptible to a respiratory infection that’s caused by virus. Viral infections affecting the Liver: Catching Hepatitis is a distinct possibility if there is virus present in the liver. Viral infections affecting the Gastrointestinal tract: Rotavirus and Norovirus, which are viruses of the gastrointestinal tract, can cause gastroenteritis. Viral infections affecting the Skin: Skin infections like warts and blemishes can be caused by viruses in the skin. Other viruses like chickenpox can cause infections like skin rashes.

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What are the diseases caused by viral infection? Some of the diseases caused by a virus led infection include: ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪

Cold. Chickenpox. Measles. Influenza.


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Dengue. Zika virus infection Hepatitis C infection. H1N1 swine flu. Shingles. Herpes. Polio. Rabies. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection Rubella Meningitis and encephalitis. Cold sores. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection. Warts and skin infections. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection & AIDS. Ebola. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Epstein-Barr Virus. Some types of Cancer.

How are viral infections treated? Viral infections cannot be treated by antibiotics. Treatment of a viral infection happens simultaneously while the infection is running its course. Some viral infections can be treated with antivirals, while vaccines might be able to prevent you from getting numerous viral diseases. Some viral diseases such as HIV/AIDS, influenza and herpes simplex have antiviral medications: However, their usage have been related largely with the development of drugresistant microbes, which means that they eventually become immune to the medications and continue to grow.

BACTERIAL INFECTIONS: SYMPTOMS, TYPES & TREATMENT What are bacteria, bacterial diseases and bacterial infections? Bacteria are microscopic living things that have only one cell. There are both helpful and harmful bacteria. Some bacteria destroy cells causing infections and diseases, while others help with digestion and provide the vitamins necessary for the body. Cheese and yogurt are made with the active participation of ‘good bacteria’. On the other hand, ‘bad bacteria’ can cause infections which can then lead to various bacterial diseases. ‘Harmful bacteria’ reproduce quickly in your body and some of them give off chemicals called toxins, damaging your tissue and causing you to fall ill. Examples of such bacteria are E. coli, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. Infection


caused by the spread of a harmful strain of bacteria inside or on the body is technically referred to as a bacterial infection or bacterial disease. Bacteria are notoriously adaptive - any kind of environment - from extreme cold to extreme heat and even radioactive ones - can be home to bacteria.

What are the symptoms of a bacterial infection or a bacterial disease? Depending on the type of bacteria that is causing the infection and the location of it, the signs and symptoms of a bacterial infection may differ. Here are some general symptoms to look out for when it comes to bacterial infections or bacterial diseases. • • • • •

Fever. Headache. Nausea or vomiting or diarrhea Feeling tired or fatigued. Swollen lymph nodes in the armpits, neck or groin.

Can a bacterial infection be contagious? Bacterial infections can be highly infectious, which means that you must take extra care to avoid spreading bacterial infections if you are suffering from one. Some responsible gestures that can help prevent the spread of an infectious bacterial condition are covering of the mouth when sneezing and coughing, washing one’s hands, and not sharing cups and drink bottles.

What are the various types of bacterial infections? We can classify the various kinds of bacterial infections on the basis of the part of the body that is affected by it, such as: • • • • • • • • • •

Bacterial infections affecting the skin. Bacterial infections affecting the ear: Otitis media (inflammatory diseases of the middle ear). Bacterial infections affecting the brain and spinal cord: Bacterial meningitis. Bacterial infections affecting the upper respiratory tract. Bacterial infections affecting the lungs: Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Pneumonia Bacterial infections affecting the stomach: Food poisoning and Gastritis. Bacterial infections affecting the Sinus tissue: Sinusitis. Bacterial infections affecting the Eye. Bacterial infections affecting the urinary tract. Bacterial infections that are sexually transmitted.

What are bacterial diseases?


Although there are good bacteria aiding our nutrition (by helping us digest food) and providing vitamins for the body, there are some deadly bacterial diseases as well. Some of them are: • •

Diphtheria – This bacterial disease affects the mucous membranes of your nose and throat, typically causing fever, sore throat, swollen glands and weakness. Cholera – This bacterial disease causes severe watery diarrhea, resulting in dehydration and even death if left untreated. Cholera is caused by consuming contaminated food or water. Bubonic plague – In this case, within a week of exposure to bacteria, flu-like symptoms develop including headaches, fever and vomiting. Swollen and painful nodes develop closest to the area where the bacteria entered the skin. Dysentery – This is an inflammatory disease of the intestine (especially of the colon) that is caused by bacteria - resulting in severe abdominal pains and diarrhea with blood mixed stools. Symptoms of Dysentery can include a feeling of incomplete defecation and fever. Gastric ulcer – They are open sores which develop on the lining inside your stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine (peptic ulcer). Most common symptom is stomach pain. Leprosy – This is a contagious disease caused by bacteria that affects the mucous membranes, skin and nerves, resulting in discoloration and lumps on the skin, and can even lead to deformities and disfigurement. Tuberculosis – This bacterial disease mainly affects your lungs and can potentially be serious. It is a highly contagious disease, in which the TB bacteria is spread through coughs and sneezes. Pneumonia – This bacterial disease aggravates the lung air sacs. The air sacs may be filled with pus or fluid, causing symptoms like cough with pus or phlegm, difficulty in breathing, fever and chills. Typhus – This is also known as typhus fever and is actually a bunch of infectious bacterial diseases. Headache, fever and a rash are the common symptoms, which typically begin a couple of weeks after exposure. Typhoid – This bacterial disease can lead to diarrhea, vomiting and high fever, and can even get fatal. Contaminated food and drinks are the most common carriers. Typhoid is most widespread in areas where handwashing is less frequent. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) – This bacterial disease is one where after entering your body, the bacteria start inhabiting and living in your digestive tract. The bacteria can cause ulcers in the lining of your stomach or upper part of your small intestine. This is a kind of bacterial disease that can potentially result in stomach cancer. Escherichia Coli (E. coli) – This is a kind of bacteria that usually lives in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless, causing diarrhea at the most, but the more harmful varieties can cause bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal cramps and vomiting. Staphylococcal diseases – This kind of bacteria usually occupy the skin and nose where they are harmless, but they might enter the body through nearly invisible abrasions or cuts, causing boils. Streptococcal diseases – Symptoms in such case may range from simple throat infections to pneumonia. Streptococcal diseases are treated with antibiotics.


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Salmonella – This common bacterial disease affects the intestinal tract and is usually caused by contaminated food or water. Some may develop fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps while others may develop no symptoms at all. Syphilis – This is a sexually transmitted bacterial disease. The first sign is a small painless sore. It may appear on the inside of your mouth, rectum or sexual organs. Gonorrhea – This bacterial disease affects the reproductive tract, and can also affect the mucous membranes of throat, mouth, eyes and rectum. It is transmitted by sexual contact with an infected person.

Do note that some of these diseases and symptoms may be caused by both bacteria and virus.

How are bacterial infections or bacterial diseases treated? Most bacterial infections and bacterial diseases can be treated with antibiotics. However, antibiotic-resistant strains of Bacteria are starting to develop, which means a type of bacteria which are resistant to the antibiotics. Some examples of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and penicillin-resistant Enterococcus.

PREVENTION How to prevent viral infections and bacterial infections (or bacterial diseases)? Some ways one can keep viral infections and bacterial diseases (and bacterial infections) at bay are: • Maintaining good hygiene always. • Getting vaccinated. • Protecting one’s self against bug bites. • Practicing safe sex. • Cooking food hygienically and thoroughly. • Not share eating utensils, glasses or dishes. • Staying indoors during the infection period. • Not picking or scratching healing blemishes or wounds, or squeeze pimples. • Washing and bandaging (covering) all cuts. • Avoiding direct contact with handkerchiefs, napkins, tissues or similar items used by others.


DATA REFERENCES: https://www.healthline.com/health/infections#Overview https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/196271.php https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/bacterial_infections https://www.healthline.com/health/signs-of-infection https://medlineplus.gov/bacterialinfections.html https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/qa/how-are-viral-infections-treated https://www.lalpathlabs.com/blog/viral-infection/ https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/viral_infections https://www.healthline.com/health/bacterial-vs-viral-infections#treating-viral-infections https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/qa/how-are-bacterial-infections-treated https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/bacterial-vs-viral-infection https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-prevent-infections

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