Facts You Should Know About Viral Pneumonia
- Pneumonia is an infection or inflammation of the lungs. It can be in just one part of the lungs, or it can involve many parts.
- Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms.
- The severity of pneumonia depends on which organism is causing the infection and the immune response of the individual to that infection.
- The deadly pandemic COVID-19 coronavirus causes severe lung symptoms including pneumonia in about 16%-20% of the people who contract it. Five percent of those with severe symptoms need a ventilator to breathe, as of March 2020.
- Viral pneumonias other than the one caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are usually not very serious, but they can be life-threatening in very old and very young patients and in people whose immune systems are weak.
- Another two of the most publicized viral infections causing pneumonia are SARS and H1N1swine flu. Severe acute respiratory syndrome , which is also caused by a virus in the coronavirus family, had a major outbreak in 2003 with an estimated 8,000 cases and 750 deaths.
- Swine flu was associated with an outbreak of pneumonia in 2009. Early reports came from cases in Mexico, with very high mortality. Many cases were also reported in the U.S. However, early identification and treatment helped reduce the death rate significantly.
When And How Is Pneumonia Contagious
A person can spread the germs that cause pneumonia when he or she coughs and expels the bacterial or viral infections that caused the disease. The droplets containing the virus or bacteria can land on a common surface, such as a table, telephone, or computer. You could also breathe in the droplets and bring them into your own breathing tract.
The time that a person may pass along pneumonia varies depending on the type and how he or she acquired it. Additionally, some types of pneumonia are much more contagious than others. Two examples of highly contagious strains of this illness are mycoplasma and mycobacterium.
Once a person who has pneumonia starts on antibiotics, he or she only remains contagious for the next 24 to 48 hours. This can be longer for certain types of organisms, including those that cause the disease tuberculosis. In that case, someone can remain contagious for up to two weeks after starting on antibiotics. When someone has viral pneumonia, the contagious period starts to subside when the symptoms do. This is particularly true of fever. Keep in mind that someone who had pneumonia may still cough occasionally for several weeks, even after he or she is no longer contagious.
What Increases Your Risk Of Developing Pneumonia
Risk factors that can leave you more susceptible to pneumonia include:
- Smokingcigarette smoking is the strongest risk factor for healthy young people.
- Medical conditions affecting the lungs like asthma, COPD , bronchiectasis, or cystic fibrosis
- Being younger than 1 or older than 65
- Having a weakened immune system
- Taking proton-pump inhibitor medications like Prilosec or Protonix that reduce stomach acid
- Excessive alcohol use
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent fever/continuous chills
Pneumonia can be life-threatening if not treated, and even mild cases can linger for months without treatment. Its best to get examined if your symptoms last for a few days, and even more important if youre experiencing any of the issues mentioned above.
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What Is Viral Pneumonia
There are several different types of pneumonia you can get. One of them is viral pneumonia. A virus just like those that cause the common cold and the flu causes viral pneumonia.
Viral pneumonia is contagious and can spread from person to person.
Read more to find out how it spreads, who is at risk and what preventative measures you can take to make sure you stay healthy.
Treatment And Medication Options For Pneumonia
A lot of treatment aspects, as well as outcome, depend on the person, as well as the type of pneumonia they have, says Dr. Barron. Sometimes youll be fine just resting, but if you have things like trouble breathing, you should get to a doctor right away.
Your doctor will outline a plan that’s specific to you, considering the type of pneumonia you have, the severity of the condition, your age, and your overall health. From there, you’ll know whether you can be treated at home or need to go to the hospital, and whether you require antibiotics.
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Is Pneumonia Treated Any Differently In Children
Essentially no. Just like adults, bacterial causes of pneumonia in children may be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are not used to treat pneumonia caused by viruses. Flu-related pneumonia may be treated with antiviral medicine if caught early in the course of illness. Most cases of pneumonia are treated with comfort care measures that ease symptoms. These may include:
- Drinking more fluids.
- Getting more rest.
- Taking over-the-counter medicines for cough and acetaminophen for fever. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about giving medicines to your child.
- Using a cool mist humidifier in your childs room.
How Can You Catch Pneumoniaand Who’s Most At Risk
When pneumonia is caused by either bacteria or viruses, it can spread between people in a variety of ways: being exposed to viral particles through uncovered coughs or sneezes, sharing drinks or utensils with an infected person, or even touching a tissue from or taking care of a person with pneumonia. It’s important to note that these are mainly examples of community-acquired pneumonia, which occurs when someone develops pneumonia in the general community, per the CDC.
Anyone can get pneumonia, according to the ALA, but some people are at a greater risk for having severe pneumonia than others. Those include:
- People age 65 and over.
- Children under two years old.
- People with chronic lung diseases like COPD or cystic fibrosis.
- People with serious chronic illnesses, like heart disease, diabetes, and sickle cell disease.
- People with a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDs, an organ transplant, chemotherapy, or long-term steroid use.
- People with difficulty swallowing.
- Those who had a recent respiratory infection, like a cold, laryngitis, or the flu.
- People who have been recently hospitalized.
- People who abuse drugs and alcohol.
- Exposure to certain chemicals, pollutants, or toxic fumes, including secondhand smoke.
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Limit Contact With Others
One of the best things you can do when recovering from pneumonia is to limit your contact with others. As weve learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemicwhich can cause viral pneumoniastaying at least six feet away from others reduces the amount of viral or bacterial content they are exposed to as you breathe or talk.
When To Seek Medical Care For Your Pneumonia
At UPMC Western Maryland, we recommend that any person who has had a cough and a fever after experiencing flu-like symptoms schedule an appointment with their primary care provider as soon as possible or visit a UPMC Western Maryland urgent care center. This is especially important if the cough produces sputum that appears brown, green, or yellow in color. Anyone who experiences shortness of breath, high fever, confusion, or pain after a diagnosis of pneumonia should go to the UPMC Western Maryland Emergency Department immediately for treatment. Those with a depressed immune system or chronic conditions like HIV or diabetes should also seek immediate care.
UPMC Western Maryland wishes you a safe and healthy winter of 2019. If youre concerned about the possibility of pneumonia, we encourage you to speak to your primary care provider about a vaccine to prevent some of its types. Its also important to maintain good personal hygiene standards, avoid people who are already sick with pneumonia, and stay home when you have the disease yourself.
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
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What Can I Do To Feel Better If I Have Pneumonia
- Finish all medications and therapies prescribed by your doctor. Do not stop taking antibiotics when you start feeling better. Continue taking them until no pills remain. If you dont take all your antibiotics, your pneumonia may come back.
- If over-the-counter medicines to reduce fever have been recommended , take as directed on the label. Never give aspirin to children.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen phlegm.
- Quit smoking if you smoke. Dont be around others who smoke or vape. Surround yourself with as much clean, chemical-free air as possible.
- Use a humidifier, take a steamy shower or bath to make it easier for you to breathe.
- Get lots of rest. Dont rush your recovery. It can take weeks to get your full strength back.
If at any time you start to feel worse, call your doctor right away.
Is It More Deadly
Evidence the Delta variant makes people sicker than the original virus is growing.
In the Canadian study, Delta resulted in a 6.1% chance of hospitalisation and a 1.6% chance of ICU admission. This compared with other variants of concern which landed 5.4% of people in hospital and 1.2% in intensive care.
In the Singapore study, patients with Delta had a 49% chance of developing pneumonia and a 28% chance of needing extra oxygen. This compared with a 38% chance of developing pneumonia and 11% needing oxygen with the original strain.
Similarly, a published study from Scotland found Delta doubled the risk of hospitalisation compared to the Alpha variant.
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Whats The Best Course Of Action
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, regardless of whether theyve been vaccinated or are symptomatic, should isolate for 10 days. Ratner said that until theres more concrete data about how long people with breakthrough cases shed the virus for, the most prudent thing is to adhere to the 10-day isolation rule.
A growing number of infectious diseases specialists are recommending that vaccinated people avoid taking additional PCR tests once symptoms pass. PCR tests are so sensitive that they can pick up on super low viral loads and potentially dead bits of virus. This is different from guidance about determining if you have an infection at the onset of symptoms or after an exposure experts say a PCR is still the gold standard there.
After you recover from a breakthrough illness, Gandhi suggested skipping the PCR test and taking a rapid antigen test instead. Rapid antigen tests arent so good at detecting small traces of virus but are useful at identifying high viral loads that indicate a person is pretty contagious.
Wait until symptoms pass, take a rapid antigen test and when its negative, you can go out again, Gandhi said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
Cover Your Mouth And Nose
While the preferred method for covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is into a tissue, not everyone can get to tissues in time when the urge to cough or sneeze hits. If you have the urge to cough or sneezeand a tissue isnt availablethe next best thing is to cover your mouth or nose with the inside of your elbow.
Coughing or sneezing into your elbow will decrease the chances of your leaving traces of your infection on door handles, faucets, or anything else you touch.
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Who Is At Risk Of Contracting Viral Pneumonia
Certain people are more likely to contract viral pneumonia than others.
These people include:
- Those living with a respiratory condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Those who have long-term usage of inhaled corticosteroids
- Those who smoke tobacco
- Stroke survivors who have swallowing problems or are bedridden.
- Those with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications
- People who smoke, or misuse drugs and alcohol
- People with asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, or heart failure
If you are afflicted by any of these listed conditions, it is crucial you understand you are at a higher risk of contagion. This also means you may have a more difficult and longer recovery.
What Are The Possible Complications
Like the original strain, the Delta variant can affect many of the bodys organs including the lungs, heart and kidneys.
Complications include blood clots, which at their most severe can result in strokes or heart attacks.
Around 10-30% of people with COVID-19 will experience prolonged symptoms, known as long COVID, which can last for months and cause significant impairment, including in people who were previously well.
Longer-lasting symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, headaches, brain fog, muscle aches, sleep disturbance, depression and the loss of smell and taste.
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What Happens When Youre Exposed To Delta
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted through droplets an infected person releases when they breathe, cough or sneeze.
In some circumstances, transmission also occurs when a person touches a contaminated object, then touches their face.
Once SARS-CoV-2 enters your body usually through your nose or mouth it starts to replicate.
The period from exposure to the virus being detectable by a PCR test is called the latent period. For Delta, one study suggests this is an average of four days .
Thats two days faster than the original strain, which took roughly six days .
The virus then continues to replicate. Although often there are no symptoms yet, the person has become infectious.
People with COVID-19 appear to be most infectious two days before to three days after symptoms start, though its unclear whether this differs with Delta.
The time from virus exposure to symptoms is called the incubation period. But there is often a gap between when a person becomes infectious to others to when they show symptoms.
As the virus replicates, the viral load increases. For Delta, the viral load is up to roughly 1,200 times higher than the original strain.
With faster replication and higher viral loads it is easy to see why Delta is challenging contact tracers and spreading so rapidly.
When Should Someone Seek Medical Care For Bacterial Pneumonia
When to call the doctor
- If you have a fever and cough up yellow, green, or brown sputum, make an appointment with your doctor.
- If you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or confusion, you should seek emergency care.
- If you are healthy, you can safely make an appointment to see your doctor. It is best to contact your physician if you have concerns about possible pneumonia.
When to go to the hospital
- If you have shortness of breath, you should always seek emergency care. Shortness of breath is not simply the feeling that you can’t take a full breath shortness of breath means that you cannot take in enough air to meet your body’s needs. It is a potentially serious symptom and always requires a visit to an emergency department, no matter how healthy you are.
- If you have chest pain or confusion, you should seek emergency care.
- You are at higher risk of developing pneumonia if you have the following:
- a chronic health problem, such as diabetes
- a poor immune system because of HIV, AIDS, steroid use, or immune-suppressant medications
- diseased or damaged lungs, such as with asthma or emphysema
- are very young or very old
- or you have had your spleen removed.
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What Are Viral Pneumonia Symptoms And Signs
- Vomiting so much that you are dehydrated
- Unable to take in food and fluids
If you are unsure whether your symptoms are symptoms of COVID-19 , do not physically go to the doctor’s or emergency room until you or a loved one have called ahead. The office will give instructions to admit yourself in a way that reduces transmission risk to other patients and healthcare workers, according to direction from the CDC.
How Is Pneumonia Spread From Person To Person
Pneumonia is spread when droplets of fluid containing the pneumonia bacteria or virus are launched in the air when someone coughs or sneezes and then inhaled by others. You can also get pneumonia from touching an object previously touched by the person with pneumonia or touching a tissue used by the infected person and then touching your mouth or nose.
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Other Viral Pneumonia Causes
Depending on which virus is involved, the symptoms, severity, and treatment vary.
- Influenza A and B usually occur in the winter and spring. In addition to the respiratory symptoms, you can get headache, fever, and muscle aches. Your chance of catching the flu decreases significantly if you get immunized every year.
- Respiratory syncytial virus is most common in the spring. It usually infects children and can cause outbreaks in day-care centers and hospital nurseries.
- Herpes, or varicella, pneumonia is rare unless you are infected with chickenpox. This tends to be a more common complication in adults who get chickenpox.
- Adenovirus and parainfluenza viral pneumonias are often accompanied by cold symptoms such as runny nose and pinkeye .