A virus is an extraordinarily small germ that can only "live" inside the cells of the body. It commandeers the machinery of the body cells to force the reproduction of millions of copies of itself. Then these copies are released outside the cell to infect other cells, in the same body or by various means of transmission to other bodies.

Viral illnesses are by far the most common illnesses of childhood, and are in themselves not harmful. Most viral illnesses are characterised by a self-limiting course, in which the patient recovers through the normal function of his own immune system. Antibiotics do not help. The symptoms are often generalised - the patient feels bad all over. See bacteria, mycoplasma, chlamydia.

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