“Viral Infections May Last A Lifetime”

Many viral infections may linger and “hideout” in your body after you have seemingly recovered from the initial infection. Currently, millions are recovering from COVID-19 infections and we do not know to what extent this virus can linger on in your body. When viruses linger around, they may lead to additional spreading of the disease and prolonged symptoms. A chronic or persistent infection continues for months or years, during which time the virus is being continually produced, albeit in many cases at low levels. Frequently, these infections occur in a so-called immune-privileged site, where it is less accessible to the immune system and the body has difficulty in trying to eradicate it. Such immune-privileged sites include the central nervous system (brain), the testes, and the eye. A latent infection occurs when the virus is present within an infected cell but dormant and not multiplying. The latent virus may integrate into the human genome – as does HIV. A latent virus can reactivate and produce infectious viruses, and this can occur months to decades after the initial infection. The best example of this is chickenpox, which although seemingly eradicated by the immune system can reactivate and cause herpes zoster (shingles) decades later.

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