They can both make you sick, but what exactly is the difference between the two? I always get confused, and I’m guessing I’m not alone, so here are some of the differences between the two. I’m sure there are a lot more technical differences, but I’m am not going to get into them.

  • While a bacteria is a living organism, viruses are apparently debated. Most of my information sources say that they are not alive.
  • Bacteria are one-celled organisms, but viruses actually have no cells.
  • Viruses are much smaller than bacteria.
  • Fewer than 1% of bacteria actually cause disease or sickness, on the other hand, you would be hard pressed to find a nice virus.
  • While viruses live inside cells, bacteria actually live in-between them.
  • Bacteria are capable of reproducing on their own, but viruses can only reproduce by attaching themselves to cells.
  • Viruses must have a living host, though bacteria can live, and grow, on non-living surfaces.
  • With bacteria infections are localized, but with viruses the infection is systemic.
  • Treatment for bacteria are antibiotics, treatment for viruses are vaccines and antivirals.

Bacteria are very adaptable and the overuse of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections have created “superbugs.” Antibiotics are not effective against viruses at all. I remember reading an article once that said many doctors actually prescribe antibiotics for viruses not because they think it will help, but because their patients aren’t satisfied to just wait the virus out and demand a “pill.”

Examples of Sickness/Diseases Caused By Bacteria:

  • Leprosy
  • Cholera
  • Bubonic Plague
  • Tuberculosis
  • Tetanus
  • Lyme Disease
  • Food Poisoning
  • Tonsillitis
  • Strep Throat
  • Flesh-Eating Disease

Examples of Sickness/Diseases Caused By Viruses:

  • Flu
  • West Nile Fever
  • Chickenpox
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Rabies
  • Measles
  • Shingles
  • Yellow Fever
  • Cervical Cancer
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