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Local pediatrician discusses the world of viruses

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BATON ROUGE - Pediatrician Dr. Mindy Calandro visited the studio this afternoon to talk about the topic that is unavoidable this week: viruses.

With the national news filled with near wall-to-wall coverage of the Ebola virus developments in Texas and West Africa, viruses are on the minds of everyone, and Dr. Calandro says understanding viruses is important when living in a world where communicable illnesses of the type exist.

According to her definition, viruses are infective agents that are smaller than bacteria. So tiny, in fact, that they can't be seen under a regular light microscope. They require a live host to survive and replicate.

Viruses can be tricky in that they readily mutate, or change their structure, to sneak past the body's defense systems. This is why you can catch the cold or flu multiple times in the same season as they are able to "disguise" themselves.

Dr. Calandro says the two big viruses on everyone's radar at the moment are the Ebola virus and Enterovirus D68, but there are numerous other viruses that affect people throughout the year like warts, the common cold or the flu. These are all viruses despite the different ways they are transmitted and infect hosts.

With the advent of modern medicine, however, we have developed a way to fight back against viruses through vaccination. The flu shot vaccine gets more attention in this country than ever before, and Calandro highly recommends viewers to educate themselves about the vaccine and get it as soon as they can. Check out the related articles to see more video of Dr. Calandro talking about the flu.

Medicine has also brought about the development of anti-viral medications that can shorten the lifespan and eliminate viruses. An example of this would be recent developments in the capability of doctors to prolong the lives of AIDS patients.

Unfortunately, science has yet to get the number of every virus, and the recent media attention is partly because we are still working on ways to vaccinate or treat every virus. With Ebola and Enterovirus D68, we have medications that will help with the progression, but the viruses still must run their course.

While Dr. Calandro says people should be aware of the Ebola threat, it's important to talk to understand and be vaccinated for more likely viral threats like the flu. As always, she recommends the basic hygiene steps of frequent handwashing, but information is your best defense against a viral threat.

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