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In medicine, a very simple microorganism that infects cells and may cause disease. Because viruses can multiply only inside infected cells, they are not considered to be alive. Viruses are very tiny germs. They are made of genetic material inside of a protein coating. Viruses cause familiar infectious diseases such as the common cold, flu and warts. They also cause severe illnesses such as HIV / AIDS, smallpox, and Ebola.

Viruses are like hijackers. They invade living, normal cells and use those cells to multiply and produce other viruses like themselves. This can kill, damage, or change the cells and make you sick. Different viruses attack certain cells in your body such as your liver, respiratory system, or blood.

When you get a virus, you may not always get sick from it. Your immune system may be able to fight it off.

For most viral infections, treatments can only help with symptoms while you wait for your immune system to fight off the virus. Antibiotics do not work for viral infections. There are antiviral medicines to treat some viral infections. Vaccines can help prevent you from getting many viral diseases.

Clinical characteristics

The clinical characteristics of viruses may differ substantially among species within the same family:

Type Family Transmission Diseases Treatment Prevention
Adenovirus Adenoviridae None[1][2]
  • Adenovirus vaccine[2]
  • hand washing
  • covering mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • avoiding close contact with the sick
Coxsackievirus Picornaviridae None[1]
  • hand washing
  • covering mouth when coughing/sneezing
  • avoiding contaminated food/water
  • improved sanitation
Epstein–Barr virus Herpesviridae None[1]
  • avoiding close contact with the sick
Hepatitis A virus Picornaviridae Immunoglobulin (post-exposure prophylaxis)[1]
Hepatitis B virus Hepadnaviridae

Vertical and sexual[6]

Hepatitis C virus Flaviviridae
  • avoiding shared needles/syringes
  • safe sex
Herpes simplex virus, type 1 Herpesviridae
  • avoiding close contact with lesions
  • safe sex
Herpes simplex virus, type 2 Herpesviridae
  • avoiding close contact with lesions[1]
  • safe sex[1]
Cytomegalovirus Herpesviridae
  • hand washing
  • avoid sharing food and drinks with others
  • safe sex
Human herpesvirus, type 8 Herpesviridae many in evaluation-stage[1]
  • avoid close contact with lesions
  • safe sex
HIV Retroviridae HAART,[1] such as protease inhibitors[10] and reverse-transcriptase inhibitors[10]
  • zidovudine (perinatally)[1]
  • blood product screening[1]
  • safe sex[1]
  • avoiding shared needles/syringes
Influenza virus Orthomyxoviridae
  • droplet contact[1]
Measles virus Paramyxoviridae None[1]
Mumps virus Paramyxoviridae None[1]
Human papillomavirus Papillomaviridae
Parainfluenza virus Paramyxoviridae None[1]
  • hand washing
  • covering mouth when coughing/sneezing
Poliovirus Picornaviridae
  • fecal-oral[1]
Rabies virus Rhabdoviridae Post-exposure prophylaxis[1]
Respiratory syncytial virus Paramyxoviridae (ribavirin)[1]
  • hand washing[1]
  • avoiding close contact with the sick[1]
  • palivizumab in high risk individuals[1]
  • covering mouth when coughing/sneezing
Rubella virus Togaviridae
  • Respiratory[15] droplet contact[1]
Varicella-zoster virus Herpesviridae
  • droplet contact[1]
  • direct contact





  • vaccine
  • varicella-zoster immunoglobulin


Also see the following articles on Virus

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