Virus or Bacteria — What's the Difference?
This information has been reviewed and approved by Reeti Khare, PhD (May 2020).
What’s the Difference?
Examples of Diseases Caused
How Long Does It Live Outside the Body?
Viruses don’t “live” (i.e., reproduce) outside the body but they may exist for days on external surfaces until they degrade or find a host.
Bacteria can survive independently, but they will die if they don’t find the right environmental conditions for growth.
How Do they Enter the Body?
Direct contact with infected body fluids or lesions
Diagnosed by Examining
Blood and body fluids, like cerebrospinal fluid, swabs from the respiratory tract, swabs from lesions, urine, stool and infected tissue
Where Does it Live?
How to Prevent Contact?
Wash hands with soap and water
How Are Infections Treated?
The information on our website is medically reviewed and accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, information may have since changed. CDC.gov and your state’s health department may offer additional guidance.