Covid-19 is probably the only viral infection anyone cares about right now, but it’s worth pointing out that many other viruses cause serious illness. They may not get the same airtime as Covid, but they can do as much damage. Read on for a guide to some of the other viruses routinely doing the rounds at any given point in the year.
The common cold is a viral infection but it’s generally not that serious. Influenza, however, is serious and can kill. Around 52,000 Americans died from the flu between 2010 and 2020. That’s nowhere near as many as the number of Covid deaths, but it is still substantial. The biggest problem with flu is that the virus mutates every year, so even when people are vaccinated, they can still get sick.
The chickenpox virus is very contagious. Most people catch chickenpox in childhood and recover after 1-2 weeks. The first symptom of chickenpox is a rash of small red spots. These turn into itchy blisters that eventually scab over. The patient will probably feel ill, with a fever and aches and pains. Adults can catch chickenpox if they didn’t have it as a child. When this happens, the symptoms are usually worse and last for longer.
Chickenpox caught in pregnancy can be serious, as it can make the unborn baby very ill. The chickenpox virus can also cause shingles, which appears as a red, blotchy rash that lasts for up to four weeks. For information on how to treat shingles, check this blog post from Cooperative Home Care.
Measles has largely been eradicated thanks to MMR vaccination programs in many countries, which is just as well as it is a nasty, and sometimes serious viral illness. Symptoms of measles include a fever, runny nose and a cough, sore eyes, and after a few days, a blotchy red-brown rash. Most people recover after 7-10 days but it can sometimes lead to pneumonia and encephalitis.
Rubella (German Measles) is included in the MMR vaccine, so it is thankfully rare these days. The main symptoms of Rubella are swollen glands in the neck or behind the ears and a red/pink rash. Some people also suffer from flu-like symptoms and sore eyes. If caught during pregnancy, Rubella is very serious.
Glandular fever usually affects teenagers and is known as the “kissing disease”. It isn’t serious, but it can be unpleasant and may last for several weeks. The main symptoms are a painful, swollen neck, fever, very sore throat, and extreme fatigue.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the HSV-1 and HSV-2 virus. Data from the CDC estimates that around 67 percent of the global population aged 14-49 have HSV-1, which causes genital lesions and the more common cold sore. The main symptoms of a genital herpes infection are small, painful blisters around the genitals. These burst and turn into painful open sores. Eventually, they dry up and the skin heals. Unfortunately, once you have been infected, the symptoms can recur periodically, although this happens less as time passes.
Other common viral infections include HPV, gastroenteritis, and viral hepatitis.