Just a note to my World of Warcraft readers: This isn not at a game blog-post by any means, so just ignore it if you were looking for tales of furry bear clawings and glamorous loot rewards... But continue to read on if you are interested in the biological manifestation of viruses and the way our body handles them...
My personal background is in biology. I'm a Medical Laboratory Technologist. I recently read some articles on Wikipedia regarding the Herpes type viruses and found them to be very fascinating.
First, I'd like to state: In our current world the incidence of illness and disease has been on the rise... Ever since this observation, scientists have been continually seeking the reasons for our high incidence of healthcare problems. I suspected that the foods we have slowly accepted into our typical daily diets have played a large part in supressing our immune systems making us more susceptibe to develop illnesses. Foods that are highly processed. Foods that contain high carbohydrates, sugars and preservatives as well as artificial sweeteners. What is the result of this? We gain weight, and we get sick more often. It has been shown that even a few teaspoons of sugar is enough to weaken our immune system for a whole day, and aspartame (neutrasweet) is actually 180 times sweeter than sugar! Our intake of sugar and sweeteners has increased significantly over the past 10 years. What happens when our immune systems are weakened? We get sick. Colds, flu, diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart problems, thyroid disorders, bleeding disorders, infertility and the list goes on and on...
What does this have to do with viruses though? I'll attempt to explain:
Viruses are all over and people are constantly passing them around. For example the common Coronavirus. This one is believed to be responsible for a large percentage of the colds that we catch, and is transmitted through droplets in the air. Colds that are caused by viruses are not curable through medicines. You can only alleviate symptoms of the cold and wait the 3-7 days for your body to develop its own defenses against the specific strain that the body is infected with.
The Herpes virus is also not curable. Once exposed, herpes strains stay with you for life. I'm not just talking about the commonly known sexually transmitted genital herpes disease, but the whole Herpes type virus family.
Here is a list of all 8 (known) Herpes simplex virus (HSV) strains:
HSV 1 = Cold sores, fever blisters (HWJ-1)
HSV 2 = Genital Herpes virus (HWJ-2)
HSV 3 = Varicella Zoster (Chicken Pox) (HHV-3)
HSV 4 = Epstein-Barr Virus (HHV-4)
HSV 5 = Cytomegalovirus (HHV-5)
HSV 6 = Sixth disease (HHV-6)
HSV 7 = Roseola virus (HHV-7)
HSV 8 = Kaposi's Sarcoma (KSHV)
If you take a look at these viruses, you may notice that we have been exposed to many of them in our society routinely. Haven't nearly all of us been exposed to Chicken Pox at some point in our childhood? Also, millions of people have cold sores or fever blisters and think nothing of them, but once infected with HSV-1, it stays with us forever... Our immune system has to fight off outbreaks and put the virus into latency. Later on, if something stresses us and lowers our immunity, we could end up with another cold sore outbreak. Further reading shows that these innocent cold sores could be associated with Alzheimer's disease!
"In the presence of a certain gene variation ... HSV-1 appears to be particularly damaging to the nervous system and increases one's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The virus interacts with the components and receptors of lipoproteins, which may lead to the development of Alzheimer's disease." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hsv_1
So this virus harbors itself in our own DNA and then can be re-activated to do it's harmful things again when our immune system is down. Each of these viruses harbors itself within specific tissue types. Here is a list of the target tissues:
HSV 1, HSV 2= Human nervous system - persists notably in neural ganglia (neurotropic and neuroinvasive) (latent in the cell bodies of nerves in the infected area) Shed through saliva (type 1) and genital secretions (type 2).
HSV 3 = Human nervous system (dormant in trigeminal and dorsal root ganglia)
HSV 4 = Human B-lymphocyte (bone marrow?) (persists within the cell as an episome)
HSV 5 = Human body fluids: (urine, saliva, blood, tears, semen and breast milk)
HSV 6, HSV 7 = Integrated into chromosomes - can pass on to fetus during development
HSV 8= Lymphocytes: exists as a naked circular piece of DNA (episome) Shed in saliva?
So once infected, it stays with us for life, and some viruses (like the Roseola viruses HSV-6, HSV-7) can even be passed onto our offspring through our infected chromosomes! The HSV-8 virus is not as well known because it only presented itself in individuals with extremely compromized immune systems such as AIDS patients. It seems we can fight off that virus easier than some of the others higher up on the list.
What happens to us if our immune system can no longer keep these viruses in check? Here is another list showing the possible effects that each virus can cause:
(Possible effects with compromised immune system)
HSV-1 = cold sores --> Linked to increased risk for Alzheimer's disease.
HSV-2 = Genital Herpes STD --> future genital sore outbreaks, low (~1%) risk of developing aseptic meningitis.
HSV-3 = Chicken Pox (Varicella zoster)--> Rare occasions: encephalitis or pneumonia --> Later in life: Shingles (Herpes zoster) with possible complications: postherpetic neuralgia, zoster mltiplex, myelitis, herpes ophthalmicus, or zoster sine herpete.
HSV-4 = Epstein-Barr --> Infectious mononucleosis, Burkitt's Lymphoma.
HSV-5 = Cytomegalovirus --> pneumonia, gastrointestinal, retinal and neurological disease.
HSV-6, HSV-7 = Roseolavirus --> Exanthem subitum (sudden rash), three day fever, (typically appearing between 6 months and 3 years of age). Rare: Liver dysfunction. Adult: signs of mononucleosis.
HSV-8 = Kaposi's Sarcoma --> (This is the disease from compromised immunity) --> Pigmented sarcoma of the skin.
Some compromises of the immune system can include things as simple as: "cold, influenza, eczema, emotional and physical stress, exposure to bright sunlight, gastric upset, fatigue or injury, menstruation" (as listed under HSV-1), or as extreme as: HIV or AIDS infection, leukemia, organ donation treatment, chemotherapy, radiation treatment or any other method that severely affects immunity.
Another example of a virus that has become more prominent over the years is the Papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is rather wide spread and has been known to cause abnormal papsmears and genital warts in women, and some strains can even cause cervical cancer. The negative affects of this virus also have become more prevalent... Why have our immune systems become so negatively affected?
What is the best way to fight or prevent these viruses? The most effective way is with antibodies that have been developed specifically to target these viruses. Exactly the way your own body will fight them off given time and a functioning immunity. Immunoglobulin developed into the form of vaccines help fight and prevent the diseases caused by many viruses. There have also been some anti-viral agents developed that may be effective for certain viruses.
One might conclude from all of this information so kindly accumulated by my favorite "let's find out" source --> Wikipedia, that our best way to stay healthy and disease free is to 1) avoid contact with any or all viruses and bacteria (which is basically impossible) 2) be sure to get vaccinated with the available current vaccines, and 3) avoid foods or other substances that can compromise the immune system. The food topic is another huge discussion all in it's own, but from reading articles about anti-oxidants from berries, health advantages of fresh vegetables, and whole grains, and visiting http://hacres.com/, there is definitely truth to "You are what you eat". The numerous healing stories from people who changed their diets is likely directly related to a recovering immune system that is less supressed by bad foods.
These are my own observations based on accumulated information over the years.
Here are some more links to informative medical information sites:
American Academy of Family Physicians