A brief encounter with the world’s deadliest bacteria and viruses

Mankind has always been faced with an invisible yet deadly force. It attacks without warning and gnaws away at our bodies with such ferocious intentions that the results are oftentimes catastrophic and deadly. We have been in a war against bacteria and viruses from before we even had a name for them and to this day there are many bacteria and viruses that are only just becoming known to us. Each year we find new strains or deadly strains of these invisible villains and each year we develop new advancements in medicine to combat these strains.

Drugs and vaccines have given us some control over the damage that these viruses can cause while other strains are so fast acting, and so dangerous that before we have had time to contain an outbreak, we have lost entire villages of people to these relentless bugs.

Just last year a devastating outbreak of the notorious Ebola virus lurked in west African nations, silently ravaging the population and leaving thousands in desperate need of medical care, not to mention the tens of thousands of people who died. Often we are not prepared and those living in these areas are left without care, succumbing to the virus and then their dead bodies continue to infect others by releasing the virus onto those who have either cared for the dying or who have undertaken the task of burying them.

While the Ebola virus is a terrifying parasite that causes internal haemorrhaging and eventually a painful death, it might be hard to imagine that there are far more deadly strains of bacteria and viruses out there that many of us have not even heard about.  These serial killers have a death count of thousands and these numbers increase with every case that meets an untimely demise.

What is the difference between a virus and a bacteria?
A virus is much smaller than your body’s bacteria and once it creeps its way into your system, havoc can ensue. Viruses need to have a living host and once they find a way in, they attack your cells and start multiplying, taking over the cell along the way and using the cell for its own production purposes. They need you to be alive in order to multiply, thus people, plants and animals are the usually the hosts for such menacing parasites.

A bacterium is a microorganism that can thrive in all types of environments, some can even thrive in extremely hot or cold environments. Unlike a virus, most bacterium is not deadly but rather many bacteria are actually beneficial to the body. However, there are those sly bacteria out there that can cause some painful harm to the body and it is these that can be conquered with the right use of antibiotics.
There are times where there can be some difficulty distinguishing whether it is a virus or a bacterium that is causing the symptoms that a person is displaying, especially as some of the same illnesses can be caused by either the virus or the bacteria. Now that you know the difference between a virus and bacteria it is time to take a disturbing look into some of the world’s most terrifying strains of viruses and bacteria… and these are just the ones that we know of…

Introducing the 5 deadliest viruses on the planet:

1.    The Ebola Virus
Recently this scary virus enjoyed plenty of international news cover. It was able to break out of Africa and infect people as far away as the US and the United Kingdom as healthcare workers from these nations not only got infected while in Africa but only began displaying symptoms once they had arrived back in their respective nations. The first outbreak in humans was reported in Sudan and the DRC in 1976. The virus is spread through contact with blood, bodily fluids and infected tissue. There are a number of strains and their deadliness can vary. Ebola generally passes from bush meat to the victim and it can also be passed through sexual intercourse.

Symptoms and death
Symptoms for Ebola infection are also symptoms of common illnesses so sometimes diagnosis can be tricky. Symptoms for an Ebola infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, red eyes, rash, chest and stomach pain, coughing, severe weight loss and eventually bleeding from the eyes, bruising and finally bleeding from the other orifices as well. Death is usually caused by internal haemorrhaging.

2.    The HIV virus
Even with all of the education surrounding HIV, this is a virus that continues to spread like wildfire throughout the populations of the world. Regardless of who you are or where you come from, you are at risk of contracting HIV if you practice unsafe sex, or if you share needles or come into contact with infected blood. Since the virus first came to the world’s attention in the early 1980s, the world has lost 36 million people to the virus. The HIV virus was first identified by Robert Gallo. Today antiretroviral medication can be taken to suppress the virus by lowering the viral count within the blood but ultimately, should the virus turn into AIDS, there is little chance of reversing the effects. There is no cure for HIV or for AIDS.

Symptoms and death
HIV is one sneaky virus and can lie undetected within the body for many years if the carrier has not had an HIV test. When symptoms first appear they can include immense fatigue, a fever, swollen lymph nodes (one of the biggest indicators), drastic weight loss, an oral yeast infection and shingles. Those infected with the virus will have a drastically reduced immune system which means they are more easily susceptible to phenomena and TB. Death is usually the result of contracting and not being able to effectively fight off a secondary infection.

3.    The Dengue Virus
At first affecting only the Philippines and Thailand, Dengue appeared in the 1950s and is today found in most tropical and subtropical regions. Carried by mosquitoes, Dengue is expected to spread as the world’s climate gets warmer. Each year up to 100 million people can contract Dengue according to the World Health Organisation. Dengue has a low death rate, however, it can turn into a haemorrhagic fever which is similar to the Ebola virus and consequently leads to death. There is no vaccine for this virus.

Symptoms and death
Symptoms can appear between 4 and 6 days after the infection and can last for 10 days. The symptoms can include a sudden high fever, intense headaches, pain behind the eyes, muscle pain, nausea, intense fatigue, a skin rash and mild bleeding and bruising. A weakened immune system and the potential haemorrhagic fever can lead to death.

4.    The Marburg Virus
It first broke out in 1967 when German scientists and lab workers were exposed to infected monkeys from Uganda. The scary thing about the Marburg Virus is that it is in many ways also similar to the Ebola Virus in that it can cause a haemorrhagic fever (leading to uncontrollable bleeding that leads to organ failure and death). This virus has reared its ugly head a few times since 1967 with the most devastating outbreak being from 1998 to 2000 when the mortality rate was 80%. This outbreak was in the DRC.

Symptoms and death
The most common symptoms can include chest pain, rashes, a sore throat, and abdominal pain. As the virus progressively gets worse, inflammation of the pancreas, jaundice, weight loss, shock, delirium, immense internal bleeding and organ failure can ensue and result in death.

5.    The Rabies Virus
Occasionally the rabies virus hits the news and attention to this deadly fast acting virus brings new waves of terror to the populations in which the outbreak occurs. Rabies has one of the longest histories, with evidence of its terrible presence dating as far back as 2300BC.  The earliest reports of this virus tell us that Babylonians lost their minds and died after being bitten by rabid dogs. Today the sickness can be prevented as there are vaccines available for those who have been exposed to the virus. Exposure to the virus is rare these days but outbreaks do occasionally happen.

Symptoms and death
When you are bitten by a rabid dog, the first symptom you will have is intense pain around the bite. A feeling of illness then follows and soon a headache, fever, lack of appetite, a sore throat and some depression is common. Within 4 to 10 days after the initial symptoms, a person will start to feel anxiety, confusion, an excessive amount of saliva, paralysis in the lower legs, a fear of water, insomnia and hallucinations. Eventually, the victim falls into a coma and dies as a result of being unable to breathe.

Introducing the 5 deadliest bacteria on the planet:

1.    E. Coli
This is a very common bacteria and the scary fact is that each year millions will die from an E. Coli bacterial infection. This bacteria spreads very quickly within the body and attacks any weak areas. What is even scarier is that each one of us is carrying E. coli within our intestines, but when we come into contact with it and especially with a weak immune system, it can lead to death.

Symptoms and death
If you are infected with E. Coli you can experience symptoms of abdominal cramping, intense diarrhoea, fever and fatigue. Left untreated you can die from dehydration or kidney failure.

2.    Salmonella
Salmonella is deadly and it can be easier than you think to contract. There are two strains, namely the enterica and the typhi. If you think typhi sounds familiar it is because the typhi strain is the bacteria behind the deadly typhoid fever that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year.  This bacterium is spread through urine and faeces while some people can be carriers themselves (think Typhoid Mary).

Symptoms and death
Symptoms of this bacteria when it has attacked your body includes nausea and vomiting, cramps, chills, a headache, and blood in the stool. Death can happen when the infection spreads into the blood-stream or from dehydration.

3.    Tetanus
Have you ever had a tetanus injection? It can burn and be quite painful but when you read about the tetanus bacteria you will be grateful for the unpleasant little prick. Luckily vaccines can prevent the tetanus bacteria from causing damage, the bacteria can be terrible if left untreated. You can get tetanus from unclean wounds as this is the entry point of the bacteria. This is why, after being stitched up by your doctor, you are likely to be given a tetanus shot.

Symptoms and death
Lockjaw and incredibly tense, muscle spasms are the first sign of an infection. When tetanus is not treated, spasms will continue and should you not receive treatment the toxins from the tetanus bacteria can lead to suffocation.

4.    Aspergillus
Blood infections are certainly among some of the most deadly in the world and this bacteria, in particular, can cause pulmonary infections. Aspergillus is a bacterial mould and when inhaled it can settle into the delicate lung tissues and begin growing. This is a terrible bacteria to be infected with and it has been listed as one of the top 10 most deadly bacteria’s in the world. This bacterium is regularly found in cancer patients. Often present in air ducts and easily spread through air conditioners, this is one scary bacteria.

Symptoms and death
The first symptoms of this bacterial infection include fever and chills, coughing up blood, bleeding lungs, difficulty breathing, a shortness of breath, headaches and pain in the eyes, nose bleeds and swelling in the face.

5.    Streptococcus pyogenes
The last deadly bacteria on the list is Streptococcus pyogenes, and it is the one bacteria on the list that is becoming highly resistant to treatment. It is found in around 5 to 15 % of all humans and in these people, it stays in the throat and lungs without doing damage. However annually this bacteria is known to cause 700 million infections and in 25% of the worst cases, it has resulted in death. The reason for its deadliness is that it evolves quickly from a sore throat, to scarlet fever if left untreated for long enough. In most cases it can be easily treated however it is becoming resistant to treatment.

Symptoms and death
As mentioned above, should this bacterial infection evolve into scarlet fever it can lead to death. Symptoms for Streptococcus pyogenes (or strep throat) include a painful throat, difficulty swallowing, inflamed tonsils and painful lymph nodes.

About the author:

I enjoy educating people about health and safety, I write article and blogs on a wide variety of subjects I currently work for Healthy Splash