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What is Rhinovirus?

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  • Written By: Stuart Z.
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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The rhinovirus is one of over 200 viruses responsible for the common cold. It's the most common virus that affects humans, with estimates that it's the culprit in one third to one half of all colds contracted. There are some 100 or so types of rhinoviruses, or rhinovira, and unfortunately, vaccines against it have yet to be discovered.

Rhinoviruses can easily be transmitted through the air or direct contact with a contaminated surface or people. Additionally, they can survive outside of the body for up to three hours, only helping its chances of infecting people. Most people, get infected by touching an infected object and then touching their nose, mouth, or eyes. As a result, preventative practices of washing hands and not touching the face may be advisable.

Although the rhinovirus is most active in the spring through the early fall, most people tend to get infected in the fall and winter. Contrary to popular belief, however, being physically cold is not a prerequisite to catching a cold. Colds are more prevalent in the winter less so because people are physically cold and more so because people tend to stay inside more often, increasing the opportunity for cross-contamination and infection.

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Those infected with the rhinovirus, usually begin to show symptoms within two days of infection. Those symptoms typically include a runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, headache, and sinus congestion. It's a virus that grows best in temperatures slightly below the normal body temperature of 98.6° Fahrenheit (37.0° Celsius), which is one of the reasons it grows within the nose and upper respiratory tract.

Unfortunately, no medical treatments exist that directly target the virus. The average, healthy immune system can usually fight the infection within a few days, however, making the best way to address the virus include getting plenty of rest, and drinking fluids. Cold medicines usually dull the symptoms but those medications don't actually fight or kill the virus. Most infections go away in about one week.

Despite being one of the most studied and widespread viruses, scientists are skeptical that a vaccine for the rhinovirus will appear anytime soon. Since so many different types of rhinoviruses exist, in addition to other viruses that can also cause colds, it is unlikely a vaccine could be developed that would completely eliminate cold-causing viruses. Instead, health care professionals typically recommend that people wash their hands regularly, keep their hands away from the face, and avoid those who have already been infected.

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