5 Main Things to Know About Bacteria And Viruses
STORY: Fitri Mahad
29 January 2020
From news outlets to Tiktoks, everyone is prepping for the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. While masks and sanitisers do help, it’s also important to know what exactly we’re protecting ourselves against.
Regardless of whether you took bio or chem, people tend to use bacteria and viruses interchangeably.
While they do look similar, it is important to know why they are both different and how we can be a little bit more vigilant.
1. Friendly? Not friendly?
Tiny micro-organisms made up of a single (same) cell. These guys can survive in almost every environment. In fact, we have bacteria in our body too.
Don’t worry, the ones we have are harmless and even help us digest our food and destroy disease.
These guys are smaller than bacteria (not that you can see them with your naked eye, anyway). But don’t let the size fool you.
These guys are parasitic (that one Korean movie, anyone?) in nature, meaning they depend on a living body to grow.
In turn, they kill your cells and even use them to grow and multiply. Get a room, not a body.
2. How They Spread
Despite their differences, both bacteria and viruses do spread the same way.
Coughing and sneezing: This one’s pretty straightforward. If you’re coughing/sneezing, wear a mask and practice basic hygiene such as washing your hands.
Close contact: This can range from touching to having sex. No, you will need a different kind of protection.
Surfaces: Touching contaminated surfaces (door handles, faucets) and then touching your face, nose or mouth. Just be kiasu and wash your hands anyway.
Pregnancy/Birth: This one’s a bit extreme, but a mother with viral or bacterial infections can transmit them to her child.
Bacterial infections differ from viral infections. Sometimes, we tend to mix them up or don’t even know which is which.
Here are some examples to better know which come under bacterial or viral infections. See if you recognise some of them.
- Whooping cough
- Strep throat
- Ear infection
- Urinary tract infection (UTI).
- Bacterial food poisoning
- Wuhan Coronavirus
- Common cold, flu
- Most coughs
- Viral gastroenteritis
- Viral meningitis
- Viral hepatitis
- Zika virus
- West Nile virus
4. Antibiotics – yes or no?
A misconception some have is that antibiotics are the cure for the common flu. This is not the case.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and even then, run a risk of losing their effectiveness, as it can cause future bacterial infections to be worse and last longer.
In short, they work against bacteria but not viruses. It’s best to discuss with your doctor what form of treatment works best.
Healthhub.sg has a more comprehensive explanation here.
So, how does one treat viral infections? Most of these infections tend to resolve on their own so the treatment is focused towards relieving symptoms like fever and cough.
This can consist of simply getting plenty of rest and drinking water and popping a lozenge.
Though, in some cases, a doctor might prescribe medication. Always talk to your doctor.
Thankfully, we don’t need two separate ways to prevent bacteria and viruses. So, prevention is quite literally killing two birds with one stone.
We didn’t forget when we all had that Primary 6 visit from the doctor for the injection. The needles might be scary, but the infections are way scarier.
But we’re all big boys and girls now so really, we can only get scared of the medical bill.
You really can’t mess this one up, it’s been drummed by almost every adult in our lives growing up.
Always wash your hands before and after you eat. Sneeze into a tissue. Carry around sanitiser. The usual.
Just...don't be like this guy.
Okay, this time we all know what kind of protection we’re talking about. Pretty sure we want the correct type of STDs. (Save the dates! - if you get it, you get it)