What is a Virus?

What is a Virus?

Viruses are microscopic organisms that exist almost everywhere on earth and can only reproduce within a living organism at a very rapid rate. There is debate as to whether they are “alive.” They can infect animals, plants, fungi, and even bacteria. Sometimes a virus can cause a disease so deadly that it is fatal. Other viral infections trigger no noticeable reaction. A virus may also have one effect on one type of organism, but a different effect on another. This explains how a virus that affects a human may not affect a dog.

Virus Quick Facts:

  • Viruses are quasi-living organisms that cannot replicate without a host cell.
  • They are considered the most abundant biological entity on the planet.
  • Disease causing viruses include: many cold virus types, rabies, herpes, SARS (a coronoavirus but not CoVid 19), HIV/AIDS, Spanish flu, H1N1, Ebola, and CoVid 19. MRSA is not a virus. It is a Staph bacterium that causes infection in different parts of the body.
  • There is no cure for a virus, but vaccination can prevent them from spreading.

Are Viruses Alive? First seen as poisons, then as life-forms, then biological chemicals, viruses today are thought of as being in a gray area between living and nonliving: they cannot replicate on their own but can do so in truly living cells and can also affect the behavior of their hosts profoundly. The categorization of viruses as nonliving during much of the modern era of biological science has had an unintended consequence: it has led most researchers to ignore viruses in the study of evolution. Finally, however, scientists are beginning to appreciate viruses as fundamental players in the history of life.

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