A viral infection can be any type of illness or a disease that is caused by viruses. A virus is a type of microbe. Microbes are micro-organisms and can include parasites, bacteria, fungi, and of course viruses. Viruses are the smallest known micro-organisms. They are much more smaller than bacteria, and bacteria are much smaller than most human cells. Viruses live and make more viruses only within living cells (bacteria, animal or plant). When a virus infects a host cell you may become sick. This will depend if enough cells are attacked as you can be host to many viruses without being adversely affected.
Viruses are ubiquitous, that is, they live around our environment all the time. There are typically four ways a virus can enter our system; through our nose by breathing contaminated air, our mouths by eating contaminated food, breaks in our skin, or by having unprotected sex with an infected person. Once inside our system, the virus will try to locate a host cell in order to infect. There are a few diseases that can be caused from an insect bite as well, like the West Nile Virus. The West Nile Virus will then enter into our system and spread to other cells in our body and repeats the infection process over and over.
Viruses are responsible for diseases as relatively harmless as the common cold and as serious as HIV. There a hundreds of types of common viral infections and how your body reacts to them will depend on how healthy our immune system is. However, there are some diseases that even the healthiest person cannot fight. Each virus causes a different illness and some viruses can even cause multiple illnesses and disease if infected in a certain way. An example of a viral disease that is often strong is the HIV virus. This virus can be extremely life threatening and in most cases, it is even fatal. The HIV and AIDS epidemic is responsible for infecting about 2.7 million people each year with HIV and about 2 million people die of AIDS annually. In sub-Saharan Africa about one in five adults is infected with HIV.
To find out if you have any type of viral disease or infection, your doctor will most likely perform a simple blood test for verification. The blood test will help the medical practitioner determine how many of the white and red blood cells you have. They are educated to know which levels your counts should be, and which infections cause different levels. Your doctor may also order a spinal tap, or lumbar puncture, to be done to perform the infection you have. This is where your doctor will actually insert a needle into your spine to draw out cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF. However, this will only be performed if your doctor feels you may have an infection in life threatening places like the spine or brain.
There isnt any proven medical treatment available on the market today for the majority of viral infections. Although there are vaccines available to stop some viral diseases from infecting you, therapy for most viral diseases is limited to treating the symptoms.