What is the difference in the body's reaction when fighting a virus vs bacteria? 

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kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bacterial and viral infections are quite common ailments, often producing similar symptoms. Where I live, we have something called "cold and flu season-" which typically occurs when students are returning for the school year and swapping all of their recently acquired microbes through touching the same surfaces, coughing, and sneezing. These aren't the only means of passing along bacteria or a virus, but sanitary practices in public spaces (like covering a sneeze) can really cut down on transmission rates.

When an infection begins, symptoms may include fever, fatigue, coughing, sneezing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Depending on whether the infection is caused by a bacteria or virus, the onset and duration of symptoms can differ.

Viral infections, like the flu, are characterized by relatively low-grade symptoms which peak in a matter of days and typically disappear before two weeks have passed. In people with weakened immune systems, symptoms may be more severe or last longer. 

Bacterial infections, on the other hand, have a slower and stronger onset of symptoms. Fevers may become stronger a few days in, fatigue and aches may worsen, and symptoms can last several weeks.