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What Are the Different Types of Viral Infections?

A woman with a cold sore caused by herpes type 1.
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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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Herpes is an example of a common recurrent viral infection, and chickenpox is an example of a condition that a person generally deals with only once. HIV and AIDS are two types of viral infections that are considered fatal. The flu is likely the most common infection and one that many people experience numerous times over the course of their lives.

The herpes simplex virus can refer to two different types of viral infections. Both of these infections are considered highly contagious because they can be spread by mere physical contact. Recurring blisters are the most common trait associated with herpes viral infections. Everyone does not experience blistering, and those who do tend to experience fewer and less severe episodes the longer that they have the infection. One of the biggest differences between them is that herpes type 1 tends to manifest itself around the mouth. Herpes type 2 is more likely to be found infecting the genitals.

Chickenpox is another viral infection that is characterized by fluid-filled blisters. With this infection, however, those blisters may erupt all over the body. They are usually red and very itchy. Other symptoms may include fever and headaches. Most people who contract this infection do so as children. For children, there are few serious complications or side effects, and they will usually never have to deal with the illness again after the initial episode. This viral infection can result, however, in serious problems for adults and pregnant women.

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Although chickenpox remains dormant in the bodies of most people after the initial episode, sometimes the virus will reactivate. When this happens, an individual will be dealing with an infection known as shingles. This condition is characterized by a rash, but it also tends to be painful. One person cannot give another person shingles, but a person with shingles can infect another person with chickenpox if the individual has never had it.

HIV and AIDS are examples of the types of viral infections that can be fatal. HIV is a virus that attacks the body's CD4 cells, which are an essential part of the immune system. The CD4 cells help the body to fight off infections and diseases, but HIV inhibits their ability to do so. When HIV has affected the immune system to such a degree that the body has little or no ability to protect itself, the individual will generally be diagnosed with AIDS.

Although many people do not recognize it, one of the most common types of viral infections is the flu. It is caused by the influenza virus, which enters the bloodstream through the respiratory tract. The virus makes copies of itself that infect cells and cause them to die. When this happens, the virus is released and moves on to attack other cells. During the course of an active infection, a person often experiences symptoms such as swollen respiratory tissues, fever, and body aches.

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