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This lesson will teach you about the viruses of the Paramyxoviridae family and the diseases they cause. We’ll delve into measles, mumps, human parainfluenza, and the respiratory syncytial virus.

The Paramyxoviridae Virus Family

When green slime is being poured over your favorite star on a television show, it’s really fun – fun for them and fun for you to watch. However, when slime and mucus are causing you all sorts of breathing difficulties, it becomes less amusing. That’s because the viruses of the Paramyxoviridae family are full of slime.

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In fact, the word ‘myxo-‘ in ‘Paramyxoviridae‘ actually means ‘slime’ or ‘mucus’ in Latin. As we explore the diseases caused by this virus family, you’ll find out why it’s not all that surprising and not all that amusing.

Paramyxoviridae Structure and Transmission

Viruses in this family have a single-stranded, negative-sense RNA genome. This genome is encased within a helical, herringbone-looking capsid when viewed under an electron microscope. This capsid is, in turn, surrounded by an envelope that contains glycoproteins that help the virion attach to the cell it’s attacking and fuse its membrane with that of the prey.

This fusion of the virion and cell membranes allows the virus to enter the cell in order to use the cell’s machinery for its own purposes.However, being enveloped has its downside. Since the virus is enveloped, it’s considered to be labile. A labile virus is a virus that is easily killed with disinfectants, temperature extremities and radiation. Even though it’s easily killed compared to a non-enveloped virus, a virus in this family is still highly contagious. In mammals, such as humans, this virus will be transmitted mainly by the respiratory route.

This means that it will usually spread around when someone sneezes or coughs.

Measles, Mumps and More

One of the most common diseases caused by viruses in this family, called morbilliviruses, is known as measles. Measles is a respiratory disease mainly associated with children that causes a rash, fever, and, in severe cases, can be complicated by pneumonia and encephalitis.

This disease is highly contagious, and you’re virtually guaranteed to get it if you inhale air contaminated by these viruses. Oh, and with pneumonia, you might cough up everything from yellow, to green, to even bloody red mucus. I told you this virus family is full of mucus! You just didn’t know there were so many pretty colors to choose from!Anyways, another very well-known disease of this virus family is called mumps. This is a disease caused by the mumps virus that produces a fever, muscle aches and swelling of the salivary glands.

The swelling associated with the salivary glands is very characteristic of this disease, and it’s typically the parotid glands that are affected.Thankfully, both of these diseases can be quite easily prevented by a readily available MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine stands for ‘measles, mumps and rubella.

‘ Rubella is a disease of another virus family, so it’ll be covered in another lesson. Regardless, before this vaccine was introduced, literally millions of people would be affected by measles each year, hundreds would die and many more would become disabled. Thanks to this vaccine, however, the disease rates associated with mumps and measles have decreased by 99% in the United States!

Parainfluenza and RSV

Unlike measles and mumps, the human parainfluenza virus, which is a virus that causes a fever, cough and sometimes severe lower respiratory tract disease, doesn’t have a vaccine. This virus typically affects infants and young children, but adults aren’t immune from its wrath. There are many subtypes of this virus, and all of them have their seasonality, or time of year they seem to get you more often.

However, the spring, summer and fall, as a general rule, seem to be when these viruses come out of hibernation to attack unsuspecting children.Like the human parainfluenza virus, the respiratory syncytial virus, a virus that causes everything from a fever and cough to decreased appetites and breathing difficulties, has no vaccine. In fact, RSV, short for ‘respiratory syncytial virus,’ is the most common cause of something called bronchiolitis in children under one year of age. Bronchiolitis is an inflammatory condition whereby small channels for air, called bronchioles, are really irritated and build up a lot of mucus. This inflammation and mucus buildup can cause wheezing, a cough and the shortness of breath that commonly is associated with RSV.

So, while the green slime on TV is something we all wish was dumped on our heads one day, the green mucus in our lungs is something that causes us to have trouble breathing. Don’t believe everything you see on TV; not all slime is fun and games.

Lesson Summary

With that deep thought in mind, let’s review the important parts of this lesson. The genome of viruses in this family is encased within a helical, herringbone-looking capsid when viewed under an electron microscope. Viruses in this family are labile.

A labile virus is a virus that is easily killed with disinfectants, temperature extremities and radiation. This ease of death, so to speak, doesn’t stop viruses in this family from causing all sorts of disease.One of the most common diseases caused by viruses in this family, called morbilliviruses, is known as measles. Measles is a respiratory disease mainly associated with children that causes a rash, fever, and, in severe cases, can be complicated by pneumonia and encephalitis. Another very well-known disease of this virus family is called mumps. This is a disease caused by the mumps virus that produces a fever, muscle aches and swelling of the salivary glands.

Unlike measles and mumps, the human parainfluenza virus, which is a virus that causes a fever, cough, and sometimes severe lower respiratory tract disease, doesn’t have a vaccine. Like the human parainfluenza virus, the respiratory syncytial virus, a virus that causes everything from a fever and cough to decreased appetites and breathing difficulties, has no vaccine either.

Learning Outcomes

After you’ve reviewed this video lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain the structure and transmission of the Paramyxoviridae virus family
  • Describe the symptoms of measles, mumps, human parainfluenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus
  • Identify which of the above diseases can be prevented through vaccination

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