Fend off viral infections with hand hygiene
Category : Pest Control
Alongside seasonal influenza, viral pathogens cause pandemics like the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) at regular intervals. In this article, we explain why preventive measures must play a key role in fighting these viruses.
Viruses are microscopic organisms. At only about 20 to 300 nanometers, viruses are many times smaller than bacteria or fungi. Strictly speaking, viruses are typically not categorized as living organisms because they lack a metabolism. Nevertheless, they can multiply in a corresponding host cell and cause illness to the host. The body’s own cells are destroyed by the pathogens which triggers defensive reactions – often displayed as symptoms.
What makes viruses so dangerous?
There are viral infections that cause mild symptoms and those that can be extremely dangerous – particularly for those with pre-existing conditions – even with state-of-the-art treatment. The Ebola virus, which led to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa between 2014 and 2016, is one of the most dangerous pathogens in the world. More than 28,000 people fell ill at the time, of which 11,300 died
In contrast to bacterial infections, medications made for viral diseases often have limited efficacy. So-called antiviral medications do exist as effective, but typically only help individually against very specific strains of the viruses. Typically the body has to fight off the disease on its own, while and medications treat the symptoms. Prevention therefore plays a key role in preventing deaths from viruses.
Vaccinations are available for a wide range of infectious diseases. In a vaccination, the body is injected with pathogens that are either already killed or rendered harmless. The body’s response is to form suitable antibodies. If the same pathogen enters the body again, the active cells produce corresponding antibodies much faster than if they had not previously been exposed to the vaccine. A prime example of the successful implementation of vaccinations is the worldwide use of smallpox vaccines in the later 20th century. The enormous global effort to contain the disease eventually led to its eradication.
But viruses are constantly changing and mutating to find new ways to infect a host cell. To protect against mutating viruses, new vaccines must be regularly developed. For example, new vaccines are frequently created to combat the ever-mutating influenza virus that causes the seasonal flu epidemic. Despite offensive vaccination campaigns, more than 180,000 people in Germany alone contracted influenza. Prevailing vaccination gaps are just one reason.