March 2011 Issue

The Seven Deadly Viruses to Beware

There are vaccinations to guard against these threats, but here’s what the experts recommend — and why.

A virus, unlike a bacterium or a fungus, is not a living organism. Rather, a virus may best be described as a complex submicroscopic structure consisting of a bit of genetic material — its DNA or RNA blueprint — encased in a protein shell. Although more of a chemical than a creature, a virus nevertheless has an irrepressible inclination to reproduce itself rapidly and without limit in the body of a host animal that it has infected. Once it has entered a host, a virus’s fundamental goal is to make as many copies of itself as possible, as quickly as possible.

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