Since 1966 the classification and nomenclature of viruses, at the higher taxonomic levels (families and genera), have been systematically organized by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The highest taxon used is the order, named with the suffix -virales. Families are named with the suffix -viridae, subfamilies with the suffix -virinae, and genera with the suffix -virus. The prefix may be another Latin word or it may be a sigla, that is, an abbreviation derived from initial letters Order, family, subfamily, and generic names are capitalized and written in italics, for example, Paratiii/xoviridac; vernacular terms derived from them are written in roman letters, without an initial capital letter, for example, paramyxoviruses. Currently, viral species are designated by vernacular terms, for example, measles virus.

A brief description of each family of viruses of importance in human medicine (see Fig, 2-1) is given below, and their properties are summarized in Tables 2-1 and 2-2. Viral families or genera that infect vertebrates but do not include human pathogens are omitted from this book; they are described in the companion volume, Veterinary Virology, 2nd edition (Academic Press, 1993)

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