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VERIFIED CONTENTAuthor: Katarzyna Wieczorek-SzukaƂa, MD, PhD, medical biotechnologist, Medical University of Lodz

In the era of the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic, we pay more and more attention to the principles of proper disinfection and protection against microorganisms present in the environment. However, large groups of people and social contacts are naturally conducive to infections. Hundreds of different viruses are present around us every day - both in the air, water and tissues of humans and animals. Unfortunately, not all of them have a vaccine that can reduce the risk of infection. Here are some examples of viruses that can threaten us every day.

Viruses accompany humanity from the beginning of its existence. Together with us, they gradually evolve and adapt to new conditions, drugs, vaccines and therapies. Although it is impossible to protect yourself against all pathogens that occur in the environment, you should be aware of their existence so that, if necessary, you can quickly take corrective or prophylactic measures in the form of preventive vaccinations.

Adenoviruses - colds, pneumonia

Adenoviruses are a large family of DNA viruses with over 40 different varieties known. These pathogens are very common all over the world and most likely each of us will undergo at least a few adenoviral infections in our lifetime and develop immunity.

In temperate climates (including European countries and Central America), adenovirus infections occur throughout the year, with an increase in the incidence curve, especially in the autumn and winter periods.

The most common clinical form of adenovirus infections are relatively mild respiratory infections, which include:

  • fever,
  • runny nose,
  • dry cough,
  • pharyngitis,
  • bronchitis.

The more severe forms of this type of infection (occurring mainly in infants, young children and the elderly?) Affect the lower respiratory tract, causing pneumonia.

Adenoviruses (depending on the type of virus that causes the infection) can also be one of the causes of inflammation of the outer mucous membranes of the eye - conjunctiva and cornea. This type of disease begins in one of the eyes, and can affect both eyes as it develops. The most common symptomsto:

  • eyeball congestion,
  • tearing,
  • pain around the eye,
  • photophobia,
  • eyelid swelling,
  • fever.

The spread of the virus is favored by the use of shared towels, hygiene products and the use of shared bathing facilities.

Although symptoms of infections usually resolve spontaneously, patients with weaker immune systems may be at risk of the bacterial complications that often accompany adenoviral infections.

The incubation period of this type of infection is quite long and can last up to 14 days.

Rotaviruses - diarrhea

Rotavirus infections are common around the world and are one of the leading causes of acute viral diarrhea, usually affecting children up to the age of 5.

Adults can also get sick, but after contact with the pathogen, they quickly develop specific immunity - therefore subsequent infections may be very mild or even asymptomatic.

Rotaviruses, belonging to the RNA group of viruses, destroy the cells that line the host's small intestine when infected, causing a severe inflammation, usually manifested by a violent response:

  • vomiting,
  • watery diarrhea,
  • with a fever.

These symptoms may be associated with increasing dehydration or even temporary disturbance of liver function. Diarrheal symptoms last for 3 to 7 days, but in more severe cases it can last up to a month.

These types of infections are often called "enteric flu" or "stomach flu", although they are not related to the real flu virus. Rotavirus infection can be particularly severe in young children who do not yet have a fully developed immune system. It is suspected that these pathogens can account for up to 50% of hospitalizations in infants and children with diarrhea.

Rotavirus infections occur through the ingestion, and are greatest in tropical countries. Due to rapid dehydration and difficult access to hospital care, about several hundred thousand children die there every year. Currently, the situation in underdeveloped countries is improving with the available vaccine, which protects against the severe form of infection.

HBV hepatitis viruses - jaundice

According to the World He alth Organization (WHO), viral hepatitis affects up to 30% of the world's population, so it is a huge civilization problem. This disease, most often called "jaundice", can be caused by many viruses, but pathogens play the most important role in severe forms of the disease.hepatotropic drugs from the DNA group - HBV and HCV (hepatitis B / C virus).

We can become infected with this type of virus during direct contact with the patient's blood, or when the skin is broken with infected tools (in tattoo parlors, during dental or cosmetic procedures). Infection can also occur through sexual contact or in utero from a mother carrying the virus.

After entering the body, the virus locates and replicates mainly in hepatocytes (liver cells). The initial symptoms of HBV infection are very difficult to distinguish from the flu or the common cold and include:

  • muscle and joint pain,
  • high temperature,
  • general fatigue,
  • nausea or vomiting,
  • lack of appetite.

The infection can also remain asymptomatic for many years. In some cases, however, it causes acute hepatitis accompanied by yellowing of the skin - jaundice. The induced inflammation can lead to necrosis of the liver tissue and progressive failure of the entire organ.

The chronic form of the disease is no less dangerous - it is popular in adults, it devastates the liver for years and significantly increases the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma.

The most effective form of protection against HBV is a vaccine (compulsory for newborns). Unfortunately, vaccination against HCV infection is currently not available.

RSV - colds and pneumonia

The short name of this virus comes from the English phrase Respiratory Syncytial Virus. It is an RNA virus which, during replication, causes the infected cells to fuse into large, multinucleated structures (the so-called syncytia).

The RSV virus is becoming more and more widespread in Poland and in the world, there is even talk of its global epidemic. This pathogen causes infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract in children and infants, which can sometimes be severe and even require hospitalization.

RSV is also dangerous for the elderly, especially those with immune disorders and comorbidities in whom it causes complicated pneumonia.

This virus is spread by airborne droplets, and it may take 4 to 6 days from infection to the first symptoms of the disease. Symptoms - in both adults and children - include the classic common cold symptoms:

  • cough,
  • Qatar,
  • sore throat,
  • fever.

Usually the infection clears up on its own after about 2 weeks. Unfortunately, in children with additional diseases(e.g. heart defects or cystic fibrosis) and premature births, the infection can become dramatic - shortness of breath, apnea, and damage to lung and bronchial tissue will occur. The mortality rate of this form of RSV infection in the youngest patients may be even over 35%.

VZV virus - chickenpox and shingles

Both chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same virus - VZV (Varicella zoster virus).

People with chickenpox are usually infected by airborne droplets or direct contact. The infection can affect people of all ages, but most often it affects children and schoolchildren. According to statistics, patients under the age of 15 account for up to 90% of all VZV infections.

Unfortunately, the transmission of the infection is difficult to prevent, because patients are infected even several days before they develop the most characteristic symptom - a rash in the form of spots or red papules.

Other conditions associated with chickenpox (preceding a rash) are similar to the classic common cold and include:

  • fever,
  • pharyngitis,
  • muscle aches,
  • headaches,
  • lack of appetite,
  • feeling weak.

In young people, chickenpox is rather mild, but sometimes there are complications such as pneumonia or bacterial skin infections - which result in permanent scarring.

Interestingly, after primary infection (for example in childhood), the virus is not eliminated from the body, but becomes "dormant" in the spinal and cranial nerves.

It is not until many years later, during an immune disorder or other infection, that the virus life cycle and the development of shingles may resume.

This disease, like chicken pox, produces painful and itchy blisters (mainly located on the back, chest and abdomen). Skin lesions, apart from general malaise and fever, are often accompanied by neurological symptoms, especially in the elderly:

  • baking,
  • tingling,
  • soreness.

These types of neuralgia are also called shingles neuralgia and can persist for many months or even years after the disease.

HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses - herpes

Few people may associate that the characteristic skin lesions on the lip (annoying especially in the autumn and winter period) - in other words "cold" - are associated with a viral infection.

The infection is caused by two types of viruses HSV-1 and HSV-2 (from Herpes simplex virus), the latter beinga much rarer variant, it is mainly responsible for the formation of changes in the genital organs. These viruses are extremely common among humans, and experts estimate that up to 90% of adults can be infected with it.

A characteristic feature of HPV is that they remain in the host's organism permanently. This means that the pathogen goes into a dormant phase (the so-called latency), without causing any symptoms of the disease for a long time.

Only the weakening of the host's immunity, occurring, for example, during a cold, menstruation, stress, weakness, as well as prolonged exposure to the sun - will "activate" the herpes virus.

The symptoms of herpes labialis are usually small, painful, fluid-filled blisters around the lips or corner of the mouth. The ulcer that forms may be visible for several weeks, but it usually heals on its own.

The second, more serious, form of HSV-1 infection is herpetic stomatitis, in which blisters form on the inner mucosa of the mouth. Apart from pain at the site of the erosion, the disease may be accompanied by fever and general malaise.

Herpes viruses are very contagious, and infection most often occurs during contact with a person with symptoms of the disease (vesicular discharge, saliva or skin). The pathogen is not resistant to desiccation and most often dies at room temperature.

Mumps virus - parotitis

Mumps, also known as common parotitis, is most often associated with a mild infectious disease in childhood. It is caused by the mumps virus, which only affects humans. In adolescents, infection usually presents with symptoms such as:

  • swelling of the salivary glands (most often around the jaw and neck),
  • difficulty swallowing,
  • headaches and earaches,
  • fever,
  • lack of appetite.

The virus is extremely contagious - it is estimated that after contact with a sick person, up to 80% of susceptible people may soon become sick. The hatching period of mumps is relatively long and may last up to 2 to 3 weeks, which further enhances its ability to infect other people.

Being ill in childhood causes the development of specific antibodies and ensures immunity in adulthood.

However, if the infection occurs in an adult who has not acquired immunity before (or has not been vaccinated) - the course of the disease may be more severe and at risk of complications. The most common ones are inflammation:

  • testicles,
  • ovaries,
  • pancreas,
  • myocardium,
  • kidney,
  • liver,
  • brain.

In more serious, but rarer cases of adult diseases, neurological consequences may appear - e.g. motor paralysis, convulsions or hearing impairment.

It is very dangerous to get mumps virus infection in pregnant women, especially in the first 12 weeks, when it can lead to miscarriage. Therefore, measurement of anti-mumps immune antibodies is routinely performed in pregnancy examinations. If the woman has not had contact with the pathogen before - vaccination is recommended.

Mumps is also a dangerous disease for patients taking immunosuppressants, such as after liver or kidney transplants, and the infection can even trigger organ rejection.

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