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High-Quality Emergency Care for Viral & Bacterial Infections


Bacterial and viral infections are diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. Bacteria can survive and multiply on their own, outside of the body. Viruses need a host — a human, animal, or plant — to live and reproduce. 

At Dignity Health, our infectious disease experts are trained to diagnose and triage a wide range of infections and provide a full range of care. If you need to go to the ER for a viral or bacterial infection in the Bay Area, use our Online Waiting Room. It will let you select your estimated arrival time at one of our hospitals:

What Causes Infections?

Infections, both bacterial and viral, spread in four main ways:

  • Bites from infected insects, which are called vectors. For example, the Zika virus can be spread by mosquitos. 
  • Direct contact with a person who has an infection. Transmission can occur through coughing, sneezing, touching, kissing, or sexual contact.
  • Eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Indirect contact through a contaminated surface, such as a keyboard, water faucet, or doorknob. The inspection can spread if you don’t wash your hands before touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.

Symptoms of Infections

Symptoms of infections depend on the specific microorganism causing the infection. Often if it hard to tell whether bacteria or viruses are causing an infection without a test, such as a throat swab.

Common symptoms of infection include: 

Seek emergency care for a severe headache, stiff neck, and vomiting, which are symptoms of meningitis, as well as stomach page with nausea and vomiting, which could be caused by food poisoning (bacterial gastroenteritis) or appendicitis.

Infection Treatment in the Bay Area 

How our experts treat your infection depends on whether it is caused by a virus or bacteria. Regardless of the cause, the best way to prevent infections is by washing your hands regularly. 

Viral Infection Treatment

Antiviral medicines are available for some types of viral infections. However, supportive measures — such as over-the-counter medicines to treat symptoms, fluids, and rest — are the main treatment for many viral infections. 

Bacterial Infection Treatment

Antibiotics are commonly used to treat bacterial infections. However, it’s important to use them responsibly to help prevent antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections are very difficult to treat and can be fatal. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, be sure to finish them unless told otherwise — even if you start to feel better.

Let the team at Dignity Health in the Bay Area know if you need treatment for an infection. You can Find a Doctor online in a nonemergency situation — your health is always our priority.

Dignity Health offers treatment for viral and bacterial infections in the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.