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Explained: What is a Virus?

Explained: What is a Virus?

6 minute read

Viruses areminute parasites that need hosts to reproduce. To accomplish this, a virus infects a susceptible cell and then use the cell’s components to multiple itself. Viruses are made up of genetic material that may take the form of either DNA or RNA. Simple viruses may only create a handful of proteins, while more complex viruses can create hundreds of variations. Viral infections can cause anything from the common cold to the deadly Ebola disease.

What Are the Main Types of Viruses?

There are several different ways to classify viruses. Scientists sometimes label them based on their chemical compositions or the types and severity of the diseases they cause. However, the morphology or appearance of viral structures is one of the most common ways to classify them.

1. Helical

These viruses are hollow cylinders, which are of a helical shape, containing protein. These cylinders enclose nucleic acid. One common form is the tobacco mosaic virus, which infects plants.

2. Icosahedral

Viruses that fall under this category look spherical when observed under a microscope. These viruses tend to infect animals. Common examples arepoliovirus and chickenpox.

3. Envelope

These viruses are among the most complex and include the likes of influenza and HIV. They are comprised of a protective envelope made of lipids that protects the virus on the inside.

How Do People Become Infected With Viruses?

Human bodies naturally contain bacteria and fungi as part of the body’s ecosystem, but viruses are invasions. People only become host to viruses through infections, after coming into contact with the virus. A virus begins as a virion. It then enters the cells of the organism it has infected and transforms into a full-fledged virus.


During this process, the virus begins to inject its own DNA or RNA into the host cell, which allows it to take over that cell. As the cell comes into contact with other cells, the process repeats itself and the infection spreads.


It is important to note that some viruses are incompatible with certain hosts. For instance, plant viruses generally cannot infect humans and vice versa. Some viruses also spread in very specific ways or only among certain species. However, even incompatible hosts can become carriers of a virus, whether externally or internally. These are some of the primary ways viruses spread to humans or between humans:


·      Physical contact (which may range from shaking hands to sexual intimacy)

·      Coughing or sneezing

·      Contaminated food or drink

·      Insects and insect bites

How Does the Body Respond to Viruses?

Viruses may not make up a natural part of the body’s ecosystem, but they are common invaders from the natural environment. As a result, most people's natural, built-in immune system response can combat them.


The general process involves attacking the virus by using RNA interference to break down its cells. The immune system also produces antibodies that envelope the virus and reduces or eliminates its ability to come into contact with other cells and cause further infection. T cells then work hard to destroy the virus.


Unfortunately, the body only learns to attack specific viruses through exposure. Aside from real-word infections, exposure may occur in other ways. For instance, babies absorb their mothers’ immunitiesthrough breastfeeding. This is one of the main reasons mothers are encouraged to breastfeed, at least for the first few days.


Vaccinations are another common way people become exposed to viruses. These vaccines contain a small load of the virus or certain proteins that the body detects and fights in the background. The immune response creates an attack strategy that the body re-uses should it ever come into contact with the actual virus in the future.

Why Are Viral Infections Dangerous?

Unfortunately, some viruses mutate so rapidly that the body can create no solid defense against them. Influenza is an excellent example of this. The virus changes its genetic material rapidly, which makes it impossible for scientists and medical practitioners to completely prevent it. Evenflu shots merely protect against predicted genetic examples of the flu that may surface within that season.


Viruses can also become dangerous to people with compromised immune systems. Health conditions that may make some people more susceptible to complications from viruses include the following:


·      HIV/AIDS

·      Diabetes

·      Rheumatoid arthritis

·      Cancer


Some viruses are also inherently dangerous because of the symptoms they produce and how the body reacts to them. For example, the coronavirus canattack the lungs and may also cause the blood to clot unnecessarily. Coupled with high fevers and lethargy, this can create more complications than some people can withstand.

How Do Medical Professionals Treat Viruses?

When medical professionals have no approved vaccines to prevent viral infections, they may resort to treating the symptoms. In some deadly cases, they can do little more than ensure that the patient is comfortable and hope for the best. More commonly, doctors rely on anti-viral drugs and vaccines.

What Can You Do To Reduce Viral Infections?

Even before the coronavirus, several studies found that washing hands regularly and properlycould save millions of lives each year. Washing hands protect people with developing and compromised immune systems. It also reduces the likelihood of viruses and germs being ingested.

Additional measures depend on the specific virus. For instance, wearing a mask may offer zero protection against the transmission of HIV/AIDS, but it could save millions from influenza. Masks have also been identified asplaying a key role in reducing transmission rates of the coronavirus.


The type of mask also makes a difference. Scientists recommend at least three-ply protection. At HALOLIFE, we ensure our masks adhere to the strictest recommendations from reputable health organizations around the world.Purchase yours today.


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