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Viral Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors and Treatments

By Dr. Ram Singh in Internal Medicine

Jan 24 , 2022 | 2 min read

Viral infections are caused by a virus, which contains DNA/ RNA/ both as genetic material and covered by a protein envelope. They can multiply on their own but are dependent on the host for survival. The different types of viral infection are-

Respiratory infections


Some of the common viral infections that affect the respiratory tract are-


  • Common Cold- Common cold is caused by various viruses, but most commonly, rhinovirus is the causative agent of common cold.
  • Pneumonia- Pneumonia can be caused due to bacteria, fungi or viruses. Commonly respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and SARS-CoV-2 cause pneumonia.
  • Covid 19 infections- Covid-19 infection has become a pandemic, and the world is still dealing with it. It is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. 
  • Bronchiolitis- It is a viral infection that occurs in infants and children and is caused by a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Symptoms of respiratory infections


Here are some of the common symptoms of respiratory infections- 


Central nervous system infections


Here are some common central nervous system infections-

  • Meningitis- Meningitis is inflammation of coverings of the spinal cord and brain. Bacteria, fungi or viruses can cause meningitis. Viruses that can cause meningitis are HIV, West Nile virus, Herpes simplex, mumps virus.
  • Encephalitis- It is inflammation of the brain. Common viruses that can cause encephalitis are- Herpes simplex virus (HSV), Enteroviruses, Rabies virus etc. 
  • Myelitis- It is inflammation of a section of the spinal cord and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Cytomegalovirus, Herpes viruses, Echovirus, Enteroviruses, Zika virus, Hepatitis B etc., can cause myelitis.

Symptoms of central nervous system viral infections-

  • Fever
  • Seizures / abnormal body movement
  • Irritability
  • Head and neck pain
  • Confusion
  • Dislike for bright light
  • Dislike for high pitched noise.
  • Stiffness of neck 

Skin infections

  • Herpes Simplex infection- Herpes simplex infection is caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV), a highly contagious virus. 
  • Chickenpox- Varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox. If you have ever experienced chickenpox, you might be aware that itchy rashes appear along with small blisters.
  • Warts- Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes warts that appear as rough bumps on the skin. 

Symptoms of Viral skin infections are-

  • Rashes
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Pain

Digestive system infections


Viral gastroenteritis- Norovirus and rotavirus majorly cause viral gastroenteritis. It is also known as gastric flu and spreads by direct contact with the patient or by contaminated food and water intake.


Eye: Conductivities, during humid & rainy seasons 


Symptoms of Viral digestive system infections

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Watery diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain

STDs: HIV, Warts, Herpes


Risk factors of viral infection


Smoking: Smoking increases the episodes of cold and cough and delays the healing process.


Poor hygiene: Many viruses are transmitted due to contaminated food and water. So it is also one of the risk factors of viral infection.


Congested areas: The transmission of droplet infection is faster in a crowded place, increasing the risk of transmission.


Age: You must be aware that children and older adults require more care because they are at a greater risk of viral infection.


Medical conditions: If you have diabetes, kidney disease, allergy or your immune system is weak, you are more susceptible to viral infection.


Disability: People with physical and mental disabilities find communicating their pain and suffering difficult. As a result, treatment gets delayed, and complications occur. 


Treatment of viral infections


You do not always need medications to treat viral infections, as some resolve independently. But sometimes, medications are given that do not act on the virus but give symptomatic relief. For example, doctors prescribe cough syrup for cough and painkillers to reduce the pain. However, certain medications called antiviral medications are used to treat infections such as shingles, chickenpox, HIV, Herpes simplex, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C.