Why It Matters: Viruses

Why identify different viruses and the methods they use to infect humans?

A young woman reading a textbook.It’s late October and Kendra’s studying when she gets a text from her mom: “Have you gotten your flu shot yet?” Kendra sets down her book to text her mom that, no she hasn’t had the time yet; classes have been keeping her really busy this semester. Besides, she got her flu shot last year. Her mom responds informing Kendra that her local drug store has a flu shot kiosk—one that promises a quick and easy vaccination. “If there’s a line, you could study while you wait!” her mom concludes.

Kendra tells her mom she’ll think about it, but that she really needs to get back to studying. A few minutes later, Kendra gets a text from her mom: it’s an article explaining why people should get a flu shot every year. As Kendra reads on, she learns that the flu virus changes from year to year. She pauses in her reading: does this mean viruses are alive? They would have to be to change, right?

In this module, we’ll learn about viruses: how they function and how they infect people and animals. And, of course, we’ll determine whether or not they’re alive.

Learning Outcomes

  • Discuss the basics of virus discovery, evolution, and classification
  • Describe a viral infection and explain what impact an infection has on its host
  • Compare vaccinations and antiviral drugs as medical approaches to viruses
  • Describe prions and viroids