Viruses/reinfection

  1. Hi everyone! I need some help. Hopefully you all could help clarify something I just don't quite understand.
    I've learned all about viruses and the immune system. I understand that once you have a specific virus, you'll never get it again because your immune system "remembers" the virus and you don't get reinfected. Am I right so far?
    Well here's what I don't understand. My son has conjunctivitis or "pink-eye" as it's more commonly known, for over a week and I was told by a nurse at his pediatricians office that he may be getting re-infected with it from other kids in his class at day care. How is it possible? It completely contradicts what I've learned in microbiology. I wasn't going to argue with her because I'm only a student at this point.
    So is it true? Can you get over a virus then your family member or anyone else who gets it from you can get infected and then give it back to you after you've gotten "over" it?
    I'm confused!!
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    About OURN83

    Joined: Jul '05; Posts: 130; Likes: 9

    11 Comments

  3. by   Achoo!
    Well conjunctivitis is a bacterial infection, not a virus, so that may be where some of the confusion is.
    Also, if you have built some immunity, that doesn't necessarily mean you will never get that virus again. It may not be as severe and you may recover quicker, but I wouldn't say you will be virus free from that bug forever. JMO from what I have learned. Look at chicken pox. Kids can get that more than once, but the second time is usually less severe.
  4. by   OURN83
    From what I've read, conjunctivitis is viral or bacterial. My sons Pediatrician told me it was Viral. I also have gotten more information here:
    http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/inf...nctivitis.html
    "Infectious conjunctivitis is usually caused by either bacteria or viruses."
    First line, second paragraph.
    However this site didn't say anything about reinfection.
  5. by   OURN83
    And thanks for the reply, that makes a little more since to me
  6. by   Achoo!
    If they treat it with drops or ointment, they must consider it bacterial, and it is highly contagious.
    You're welcome!
  7. by   Daytonite
    what you have learned about viruses and the immune system is only basic information. when you are presented with specific diseases, you need to research them.

    here are patient information articles on acute and bacterial conjunctivitis:

    http://www.utoronto.ca/kids/conjunct.htm - conjunctivitis in childhood

    http://www.emedicine.com/oph/topic88.htm - bacterial conjunctivitis

    http://www.emedicine.com/oph/topic84.htm - viral conjunctivitis
  8. by   carolinapooh
    I would assume that, like other viruses and other bacteria, there is more than one microbe that can cause conjunctivitis, and there is more than one strain of the particular microbes that can cause conjunctivitis. (This is why not every staph A infection is ORSA; there are different strains of staph A.) Also, I'd be willing to say that these strains also mutate - so like continuously getting colds, you can continuously catch pink eye. Based on the roots of the word itself (and based on my physical assessment class on HEENT that I had three weeks ago) I'm discerning that the word means "inflammation/infection of the conjunctiva" - which by my own guess could be caused by a host of bugs.

    And also remember this - like the other person said, just because you catch something once doesn't mean you won't get it again. Not all infections create strong enough memory cells (the creation of which varies from person to person) to prevent us getting the bug a second time; it just means you might not get it as strongly as you would have if you hadn't had it before. I was told that this is as much the idea of the flu vaccine as out-and-out prevention: many times you still get the flu post-vaccination, but it only feels like a cold because memory cells can fight the full strength of the virus off, and your symptoms are lessened considerably. Mutation also explains why people who have been vaccinated can still get whatever they were vaccinated against; also, some people never respond to vaccines in the first place, and only know it if they have titers drawn (isn't this not seroconverting?).

    Even HIV has more than one strain - and you can be infected with both of them concurrently. That's why they tell HIV patients not to have unprotected sex with other HIV patients - you don't know what strain they have.

    I'm just basing this on my own micro class and what I've had of pathophysiology so far this year. Anyone who knows infinitely more than me - and I know you're out there - please feel free to tell me I'm full of poo. I will not be insulted at all.
  9. by   OURN83
    I understand that you can get conjunctivitis again from a different strain or "bug". What I meant to ask was can you get reinfected with the same bug, same strain. For example, say your child comes home from day care with conjunctivitis, or any infection, and they pass it onto you, then your child gets well and you still have it. Then with this same bug, you can give it right back to your child? And if so, it keeps going back and forth until the strain gets weaker and weaker? It's been a while since I've had microbiology, so I apologize if this seems like a "no-brainer" question to some of you! I just want to make sure I am understanding the process correctly.
    Perhaps I should take micro again.
    Last edit by OURN83 on Oct 15, '06
  10. by   carolinapooh
    Quote from OURN83
    I understand that you can get conjunctivitis again from a different strain or "bug". What I meant to ask was can you get reinfected with the same bug, same strain. For example, say your child comes home from day care with conjunctivitis, or any infection, and they pass it onto you, then your child gets well and you still have it. Then with this same bug, you can give it right back to your child? And if so, it keeps going back and forth until the strain gets weaker and weaker? It's been a while since I've had microbiology, so I apologize if this seems like a "no-brainer" question to some of you! I just want to make sure I am understanding the process correctly.
    Perhaps I should take micro again.

    My guess is that it depends on the strength of your immune system's "memory". If the "memory" capability sucks, then I would say "yes", you can get reinfected.

    I'm starting to hate the answer "it depends" myself....guess my instructors are right, everything really DOES depend.....I second your
  11. by   nurse4theplanet
    This is what I remember...correct me if I am wrong

    Viruses: Once your body is invaded by a virus, the virus is there for the rest of your life. However, it can be active (usually, s/sx are present) or dormant. Examples of viruses are HIV, Herpes, Common Cold, Chicken Pox, Hep A, Measles, etc.

    Bacterial Infections: Bacteria are susceptable to antibiotics and therefore can be treated and cured. Bacterial infections may cause the body to produce antibodies which produce an acquired natural immunity, decreasing the likelihood of contracting the infection again...but this is not a certainty. Ex: Staph, Strep throat, Mono, etc.


    And, in response to the person who stated the reason for HIV pts being advised to not have unprotected sex with other HIV pts...another reason for that being that it will increase one's viral load and thus make them more susceptable to the virus's effects...same with herpes.
    Last edit by nurse4theplanet on Oct 15, '06
  12. by   carolinapooh
    Quote from asoldierswife05
    This is what I remember...correct me if I am wrong

    Viruses: Once your body is invaded by a virus, the virus is there for the rest of your life. However, it can be active (usually, s/sx are present) or dormant. Examples of viruses are HIV, Herpes, etc.

    Bacterial Infections: Bacteria are susceptable to antibiotics and therefore can be treated and cured. Bacterial infections may cause the body to produce antibodies which produce an acquired natural immunity, decreasing the likelihood of contracting the infection again...but this is not a certainty. Ex: Common Cold, Strep throat, Mono, etc.


    And, in response to the person who stated the reason for HIV pts being advised to not have unprotected sex with other HIV pts...another reason for that being that it will increase one's viral load and thus make them more susceptable to the virus's effects...same with herpes.
    I don't know about the "once you have a virus you have it forever". Otherwise I'd be a huge walking example of influenza and the common cold.

    Actually, everyone would.

    You build immunity, but unless the virus has the capability of either going dormant or otherwise "hiding" (like retroviruses), you don't actually have the virus itself.
  13. by   nurse4theplanet
    Quote from carolinapooh
    I don't know about the "once you have a virus you have it forever". Otherwise I'd be a huge walking example of influenza and the common cold.

    Actually, everyone would.

    You build immunity, but unless the virus has the capability of either going dormant or otherwise "hiding" (like retroviruses), you don't actually have the virus itself.
    You are right. The common cold is a virus and I put it down as a bacterial infection. I will change that...

    The reason you can get the flu and the common cold more than once is because you are contracting a different strain each time, or your body did not develop an effective immunity the first go around.

    However, the previous strain has become dormant/inactivated and you have immunity to it. Other viruses, such as HIV are more powerful and therefore your body can not adequately suppress them or build immunity.

    The term retrovirus refers to the virus's capabilty to reverse transcribe RNA to DNA within the host. (hence= "retro")
    Last edit by nurse4theplanet on Oct 15, '06

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