How do bacterial infections differ from viruses?

Lawrence Ross, MD, explains the differences between a virus infection and a bacterial infection and the illnesses and treatments associated with each
How Bacterial Infections Differ From Viruses
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How do bacterial infections differ from viruses?

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The difference between a virus infection and a bacterial infection are that these are two different types of microbes. The viruses are what we associate with common colds. We associate that with influenza type of illnesses. They can cause diarrheal diseases in children and for the most part we do not have therapies for them. And fortunately, most of the time everyone recovers uneventfully from that. The problem is that some of the viruses can be very severe and that is why we have made such great efforts to prevent them by developing vaccines. For example, measles is a virus. And as I said, influnenza is a virus. And German measles is a virus and mumps is a virus. And protecting us from these viruses by vaccine is very important because we often do not have other therapies. On the other coin or the other way to look at it, germs are bacteria. They cause things that you could associate, for example, with strep throat or infection of your skin with a boil on it. And the difference is that fortuntely for most of the germ infections, we have medications to treat them with. And so, we have been fortunate for the last 100 years to use antibiotics to treat these infections. For most viruses, there is no therapy.

Lawrence Ross, MD, explains the differences between a virus infection and a bacterial infection and the illnesses and treatments associated with each

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Lawrence Ross, MD

Pediatrician, Infectious Disease, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Dr. Lawrence A. Ross is a pediatrician and expert in infectious diseases.  He has been a full-time member of the Division of Infectious Disease at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles since 1978 and has served as Hospital Infection Control Officer as well as the Chairperson of the Infection Control Committee for 20 years.  He is also a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.  Dr. Ross graduated from the University of Illinois and subsequently attended medical school at the Chicago Medical School in Chicago. He completed residency training in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, followed by fellowships in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California School of Medicine. From 1981-1985, Dr. Ross served as the coordinator of the intern and residency program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. His areas of interest have included epidemiology of nosocomial infections as well as clinical aspects of care for patients with immune compromising diseases including patients with HIV infection. 

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