Most viruses (e.g. influenza and many animal viruses) have viral envelopes covering their protective protein capsids. The envelopes typically are derived from portions of the host cell membranes (phospholipids and proteins), but include some viral glycoproteins. Functionally, viral envelopes are essential for entry into host cells. They may help viruses avoid the host immune system. Glycoproteins on the surface of the envelope serve to identify and bind to receptor sites on the host's membrane. The viral envelope then fuses with the host's membrane, allowing the capside and viral genome to enter and infect the host.
The cell from which the virus itself buds will often die or be weakened and shed more viral particles for an extended period. The lipid bilayer envelope of these viruses is relatively sensitive to desiccation, heat, and detergents, therefore these viruses are easier to sterilize than non-enveloped viruses, have limited survival outside host environments, and typically must transfer directly from host to host. Enveloped viruses possess great adaptability and can change in a short time in order to evade the immune system. Enveloped viruses can cause persistent infections.