A flowchart of dangerous viruses

For this week’s infographic I made a poster about some of the most common kinds of human viruses. Viruses cause anything from the common cold to more serious diseases such as HIV, rabies, and Ebola. Because we can’t use antibiotics to treat viruses, vaccines are vital to protect people and animals from deadly diseases.

My goal for this infographic was to visualize the huge variety of viral species. I used small symbols to categorize several interesting aspects of each virus - whether or not it was transmitted by insects, used DNA vs RNA, or if a vaccine existed for the disease. We still don’t have a vaccine for many of diseases on this infographic, but I think it’s encouraging to see how far we’ve come (particularly for devastating diseases like polio, smallpox, and rabies).

When I started the project I had a list of about 60 viruses I needed to organize into neat groups. Since viruses aren’t technically alive, I wanted to illustrate my list in a way that reflected the unconventional taxonomic relationships between virus species. In the end I decided to make a “blob-tree” that grouped viruses into general categories, but didn’t make definitive statements about ancestral virus hierarchy.

I used 33 different source articles for this project, from organizations such as the CDC and WHO. I also had help from Dr. Arun Mathews, a Chief Medical Officer in Texas who fact-checked my work and suggested useful articles.