Infectious Diseases

How Rhinovirus Infects Humans



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What is Rhinovirus?

Rhinovirus belongs to the group of viruses known as Piconavirus and thus falls in to the same family as the polio virus. But, the rhinovirus is of minimal virulence type and therefore would not cause a serious infection as polio. When considering its influence on humans, the main pathogenic effect would be in causing common cold among humans and it is estimated that among half of all common colds are due to rhinoviruses. Because of the various serotypes that are in existence within rhinoviruses, it is possible for a single person to be infected by the same virus over and over again within a short time period.

How does rhinovirus cause common cold?

Once the rhinovirus enters the human body, it has to enter into the lining epithelial cells in the respiratory passages in order to unleash its effect. This invasion will cause the body to react and it is characterized by a mild inflammatory response and by symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, cough…etc. In addition, there may be manifestations of wheezing and sinus blockage although this would be not apparent in the usual common cold symptoms caused by the rhinoviruses. But, it should be remembered that, when a rhinovirus enters into susceptible tissues of a human, which are the respiratory passages or exposed mucosa in the region, body immune mechanisms would be able to prevent them from becoming pathogenic although in some instances, overwhelming virus loads can deplete the immune mechanisms and cause a common cold in spite of the counter attack from the body. Furthermore, it should be realized that, rhinoviruses will not usually affect the lower respiratory passages because of its sensitivity to heat and therefore will reside in the upper respiratory passages instead.

How does rhinovirus spread and infect humans?

These viruses spread through droplets and each droplet can contain many millions of viruses which will be enough to cause a common cold. These droplets are formed when a person sneezes or at times when a person cough. As we all known, such instances can create thousands of droplets if not more and is released into the surrounding air in a projectile fashion unless we take precautions by covering the nose and the mouth using some sort of barrier device. Thus, if not covered, these droplets can travel through the air and enter into the respiratory passages of a person nearby and therefore enter the cells of the same passage.

At the same time, it should be realized that, the rhinovirus has the ability to be outside the human body for few hours and therefore it can remain on surfaces contaminated by droplets and thus transfer into a person through touch. Therefore, the best mode of prevention for rhinovirus infections would be frequent hand washing and practicing adequate cough etiquette at all times and this should be emphasized more in instances where someone is suffering from a common cold or any respiratory symptom.

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