Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Kislev 5759 - November 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Your Medical Questions Answered!
by Rosalie Salzman, Petach Tikva

Diplomate, Board Certification of Emergency Medicine

Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine Ma'ayenei Hayeshua Hospital

The Unseen World -- Part One

This next three articles that I will be'ezras Hashem, write concern the world of the most plentiful of Hashem's creatures. This unseen world contains viruses, bacteria and protozoa; we will concern ourselves with the ones that affect us.

Viruses are the smallest and simplest organisms we know of. While human beings are made up of millions of cells, viruses aren't even cells. They are just a protein container with a small piece of DNA and RNA inside. DNA and RNA are the building blocks of our chromosomes, the material that makes our cells reproduce. Each human chromosome has thousands of DNA sequences, whereas the virus may have only a very small sequence.

Viruses usually work by attaching themselves to cells and then they splice their small piece of DNA into the cells chromosome. This makes the chromosome of the cell suddenly only reproduce viruses instead of cells. In the end, the cell ends up making thousands of viruses before exploding and dying. These viruses then go on to attack other cells.

Viruses can sometimes be helpful. They can attack bacteria and/or animal pests without affecting humans. On the other hand, they can be very damaging as well. Some viruses can be lethal, such as rabies, or the AIDs virus. Others can be very damaging such as the viruses that cause encephalitis, a brain infection. Some viruses can be just nuisances like the chicken pox virus. Others, such as the rhinovirus family, cause the common cold. Other diseases caused by viruses include measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, infant diarrhea (rotavirus), Polio, the Flu, warts, and mono. Ebola virus in Africa, which causes uncontrolled bleeding, and Hantavirus, which can kill young people fast have been in the news lately. Some cancers have turned out to be caused by viruses as well.

Because viruses are such simple organisms, they can easily change themselves if they need to. Furthermore, when viruses aren't busy harassing people, they act like seeds, waiting for the opportunity to grow. Because of these two facts, it is hard to kill a virus. Antiseptics are successful, simple bleach can kill the AIDs virus, while iodine compounds such as Polydine (in USA, Betadine) are effective as well.

However, antibiotics are worthless against viruses, and the compound the body uses against viruses, interferon, has not been successful when doctors use it. Still, some antivirals have been invented, we now have effective treatments for AIDs, chicken pox, flu and measles. We can treat warts well too. As we all know, we haven't been too successful with the common cold (one study has shown chicken soup to be helpful). Immunizations seem to be the best way of dealing with viruses, although the flu virus requires a new immunization each year, as this virus changes itself so quickly. Good hygiene, and covering one's mouth when coughing and sneezing help also. Wash your hands often when you are sick.

Using antibiotics for viruses is not only useless, but possibly dangerous as well. One should confirm that his illness is caused by a bacteria before taking them. Write me in care of the Yated.


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