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Common Viral Diseases Affecting Humans - Types, Causes, and Treatment

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Viral diseases in humans can range from self-limiting to life-threatening, some of them having no available treatment. Read this article to know about viruses and common viral diseases.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shikha Vijayvargia

Published At September 7, 2022
Reviewed AtApril 30, 2024

What Is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)?

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) attacks the immune system by damaging the T-helper cells, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies. This leaves people with AIDS susceptible to death from infections that normal people fight off easily.

What Causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)?

AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Since the virus attacks the T-cells, it is more specifically known as the human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV). In humans, the disease is usually caused by HTLV-III. An infected person is referred to as HIV +ve (positive), while an uninfected person is known as HIV -ve (negative).

How Is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)Transmitted?

The AIDS virus is transmitted through body fluids, such as saliva, blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. AIDS can be transmitted in several ways, which include:

  • HIV can pass from one person to another in semen and vaginal secretions during sexual intercourse.

  • It can pass from one person to another in saliva during deep, wet kissing.

  • In rare cases, HIV can spread through blood transfusion.

  • HIV can be transmitted through the placenta from an infected mother to the fetus.

  • If needles or syringes are shared with an infected person or if the equipment used in tattooing, ear-piercing, or acupuncture is contaminated, it increases the risk of HIV.

AIDS is not transmitted by sharing a home or workplace with an infected person. By touching them, shaking hands, breathing the same air, using the same shower or other utensils, and sharing a swimming pool or toilet. Normal dry kissing does not make a pathway for HIV. Also, AIDS is not transmitted by mosquitoes.

How Is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Managed?

As a viral disease, AIDS cannot be treated and cured. However, a cocktail treatment consisting of Azidothymidine (AZT) and Lamivudine (3TC) disrupts the early stages of viral replication, and a protease inhibitor blocks the final stage. Thus, a further copy of the virus is prevented. This treatment works best if given within the first few months of infection. However, it may take months or years for an infected person to develop the symptoms of AIDS.

How To Prevent Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)?

AIDS cannot be cured, so the best way to keep away from the disease is to prevent it through some precautions, which include:

  • Multiple sexual partners should be avoided as it increases the risk of transmission.

  • Using contraceptives like the diaphragm or condom during sexual intercourse prevents skin-to-skin contact and semen or vaginal secretions transmission from one person to another.

  • Using disposable syringes reduces the risk of transmission during transfusion or injection.

  • Complete blood analysis during a transfusion and before the 28th week of pregnancy reduces the risk of transmission from a donor to a receptor or from a pregnant mother to the fetus.

  • Equipment used in tattooing, acupuncture treatment, and ear-piercing must be sterilized.

  • Drug abuse should be avoided. Razors and toothbrushes must not be shared since bleeding might occur when shaving or cleaning teeth.

  • Rubber gloves must be worn when applying first aid. Cuts should be covered with a sterile waterproof dressing. Spilled blood should be washed away with water containing 10% bleach.

What Is a Common Cold?

The common cold is an acute catarrhal (inflamed mucous membrane) inflammation of any or all parts of the respiratory tract. It is a disease characterized by continuous sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose.

What Causes Common Cold?

As many as 200 different viruses can cause the common cold. The more critical are rhinovirus and coronavirus.

How Is Common Cold Transmitted?

The common cold is an airborne droplet infection. It passes through mucous membranes of the respiratory tract to cause an infection. It can be spread by touch.

How Is Common Cold Managed?

As a viral disease, the common cold cannot be treated and cured. So, symptomatic treatment is the only way out, which includes:

  • Paracetamol can be given as a painkiller and to reduce body temperature.

  • Antihistaminic drugs such as Cetrizine and Loratadine reduce coughing and sneezing.

  • Nasal drops or sprays are prescribed for blocked or runny noses.

  • Cough syrups help in patients with continuous coughing.

  • Analgesics help ease the aching.

  • A course of antibiotics can be given to prevent secondary infection.

  • Bed rest is recommended for febrile patients.

Unfortunately, there is no effective vaccine because lasting immunity to rhinovirus does not develop.

How To Prevent Common Cold?

Since the disease is an airborne droplet infection, the following preventive measures should be taken:

  • The patient should be isolated to prevent others from catching the disease.

  • Overcrowded and poorly ventilated areas should be avoided, as there is a good chance of droplet infection in such places.

  • A handkerchief should be used while coughing or sneezing.

What Is Poliomyelitis?

Poliomyelitis, also known as polio, is the inflammation of the grey matter of the spinal cord. It is an acute viral disease characterized by fever, sore throat, headache, vomiting, neck and back stiffness. There may also be subsequent atrophy of groups of muscles, resulting in contraction, permanent deformity, and paralysis.

What Causes Poliomyelitis?

The poliovirus causes polio. This virus infects the intestines and throat and can spread through the spine, causing paralysis.

How Is Poliomyelitis Transmitted?

Polio is transmitted through contaminated food and water. The virus gets entry through the gastrointestinal tract and follows the oral-fecal route.

How Is Poliomyelitis Managed?

As a viral disease, polio cannot be treated-and-cured. However, both symptomatic and systemic treatments are given.

Symptomatic treatment includes:

  • Analgesics and antipyretics relieve pain and reduce temperature. Muscle spasms and pain can be alleviated by gentle, passive range of motion exercises and applying hot, moist packs.

  • Physical therapy can be used for the management of paralyzed parts. Artificial respiration should be given in case of paralysis of the respiratory muscles.

Systemic treatment includes:

  • Careful nursing, bed rest, nutritious food, and a clean, hygienic environment. Strict bed rest should be maintained during the acute phase.

  • The patient's body alignment should be proper, and the patient should turn or be turned frequently to avoid deformity and decubitus. In addition, solid emotional support is essential.

How To Prevent Poliomyelitis?

It can be prevented by taking precautionary steps, which include:

  • Vaccination has significantly reduced the incidence of paralytic poliomyelitis.

  • The poliovirus leaves an infected body through feces. So, proper sanitation and sewage disposal must be maintained to prevent the spread of polio.

  • Nutritious food develops resistance to poliomyelitis.

What Is Influenza?

Influenza is an acute contagious respiratory infection characterized by sudden onset, chills, high temperatures (103F-104F), and headache. Cough and sore throat are also common.

What Causes Influenza?

Influenza viruses change constantly, and new strains appear regularly, such as:

  • Strain A is highly infectious and can cause epidemics.

  • Strain B is irregular in shape, and outbreaks are usually localized.

  • Strain C is very mild, and the disease is often undiagnosed.

The virus damages the ciliated epithelium of the respiratory tract. This facilitates secondary infection by commensal microflora in the passages. This may cause dangerous diseases such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

How Is Influenza Transmitted?

Influenza is an airborne disease. The virus is released in droplets of water from an infected person's noses, mouth, and lungs, even during normal breathing. If these droplets are inhaled, it creates a pathway for the bacillus into the body of a healthy person.

How Is Influenza Managed?

Influenza is a self-limiting disease that lasts for 2 to 7 days.

  • As a viral disease, influenza cannot be treated and cured. Instead, the person should be allowed to rest in an isolated place with good ventilation.

  • A selected diet which is tolerable is preferred. Symptomatic treatment should be given for rise in body temperature (Paracetamol), coughing (cough syrup), and runny or blocked noses (nasal vapor).

  • If the acute phase lasts more than three days, antibiotics should be administered to prevent secondary infections.

How To Prevent Influenza?

The influenza virus can be prevented by taking precautionary steps, which include:

  • The infected person must be completely isolated, as the virus spreads during normal breathing. In addition, people attending to the patient must wear a face mask.

  • Influenza virus vaccine containing inactivated strains A and B is given in three doses at 6-month intervals.

  • Overcrowded and poorly ventilated places should be avoided.


Common viral infections such as AIDS, common cold, and influenza virus can affect any age group of people and, if neglected for a long time, can cause severe damage to the body. Taking the treatment properly, eating healthy, and regularly visiting the doctor will help balance a better lifestyle.

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Dr. Muhammad Shoyab
Dr. Muhammad Shoyab



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