Difference between Bacterial and Viral Infection

Many similarities exist between bacterial and viral infections.  They may present with symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, fever, any form of inflammation, vomiting, diarrhea.  These manifestations are some of the ways wherein an individual’s immune system is trying to get rid of the infectious organism.  The infections caused by both microbes (bacteria and virus) can range from mild to severe diseases. 

Some diseases caused by the microbes can be easily spread through fomites than others.  Fomites are inanimate objects that can carry and spread diseases and infectious agents.  Introduction of these infectious agents can be by touching of objects with contaminated hands, sneezing or coughing that spreads the infectious droplets on the surfaces or through the air like when flushing the toilet (urine and fecal pathogens can spread via the air). 

Bacteria are microorganisms that can thrive in different environments (some can live in extremes of cold or heat). While viruses always require a living host (people, plants, or animals), otherwise they can’t survive. When they invade the body’s cells, they take over the cell’s machinery and redirect it to produce the virus. 

Bacterial infections vs. Viral infections 

Bacteria and viruses, as their names suggest, cause bacterial and viral infections. Treatment varies for both bacterial and viral infections.  The most important distinction between the 2 is the use of antibiotic drugs for bacterial infections, which are not effective against viral infections. 

Whooping cough, strep throat, ear infection, and urinary tract infection are some examples of bacterial illnesses. Colds, flu, most coughs and bronchitis, chickenpox, and HIV/AIDS are all examples of viral illnesses. 

There are three things necessary for an infection to occur:  


  • It is any infectious agent (bacteria, virus or other microbe).  

Susceptible Person 

  • Any individual who is unvaccinated or otherwise immune, or has a weakened immune system, which makes a way for the infectious agent to enter the body.  


  • It refers to the means/way the infectious agent can reach by an individual. 

Some of the general ways an infectious agent is transmitted

  • Aerosol/Airborne transmission (via inhalation). This happens when tiny particles of the infectious agent are carried over great distances by the air currents.  
  • Contact with contaminated objects, surfaces, food and water. 
  • Droplet transmission when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets may then reach a susceptible person’s eyes, nose, or mouth. 
  • Contact with infected animals such as pets, insects (mosquitoes) or arthropods (ticks and fleas). 

Things to do to prevent the spread of bacterial and viral infections

  • Practice good hygiene (regular handwashing and avoid sharing personal items such as towels, toothbrush) 
  • Staying home when sick 
  • Getting vaccinated 
  • Practice safe sex 
  • Making sure the food is completely cooked 

A basic physical examination will help your doctor determine your disease. Ancillary tests may be done to determine the cause of the illness. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Viral infections mostly resolve on their own without treatment.  Medications given are usually for symptom relief (ex. Paracetamol for fever). Antiviral drugs at times are given to ease the symptoms and shorten the duration of the viral infection. 

Taking care of our health is the best gift we can give to ourselves. Should you have any health concerns, do not hesitate to call Medgate to consult with our specialist doctors.