Pneumonia is basically an infection that attacks the lower respiratory tract (such as lungs, bronchioles and trachea) and causes inflammation and blocks the stream of oxygen.
Viral pneumonia is an inflammatory lung infection with congestion induced by a virus. It is a severe infection of the lungs characterized by fever, cold, cough with blood-tinged greenish phlegm and troublesome breathing.
Following are the primary causes of pneumonia:
Viruses are one of the two foremost causes of pneumonia, the other is bacteria. Fungi and parasites are the less common causes.
In the U.S. about 30% of pneumonia are viral. A virus is the focal cause of pneumonia in kids, while in grown-ups bacteria is a more common cause.
Viral pneumonia most frequently influences kids, the elderly, pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune system because their bodies are more susceptible to infection. Viral pneumonia is usually activated by colds, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus or an adenovirus.
Viral pneumonia is caused by viruses which are immensely tiny microorganisms. According to numerous researchers, viruses are considered as non-living micro objects that only come alive when they enter our body. These viruses cause cold, influenza and chest congestion that can lead to pneumonia.
Causes of Viral Pneumonia
- There are a number of viruses that can prompt to viral pneumonia, for example, influenza (flu) A and B, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Adenovirus, Coronavirus, Rhinovirus, Parainfluenza virus, Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), Rubella virus, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Herpes simplex virus, Smallpox, Measles and Chickenpox. Different viruses cause different symptoms.
- Influenza A and B viruses bring about the flu and may prompt to pneumonia. These viruses usually affect the adults and people with other health problems.
- Infants and children are mostly affected by RSV viruses that can cause nose and throat infection and may lead to pneumonia as well.
- Adenovirus can cause the common cold and bronchitis that can also lead to pneumonia.
- A virus similar to influenza, called parainfluenza, causes respiratory infection and can induce pneumonia.
- Herpes simplex, measles and chickenpox are such viruses that rarely cause pneumonia.
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV), usually attacks the people with weakened immune system.
- Coughing or sneezing by an infected person can also affect people in the surroundings.
- Touching a contaminated surface is the most common cause to get a viral pneumonia.
Many cases of viral pneumonia recover within a few weeks. Sometimes it may go from minor respiratory contaminations to critical and life-threatening illnesses. According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pneumonia is the 8th life-taking disease in the U.S. every year.
Symptoms of Viral Pneumonia
Some basic signs and symptoms of viral pneumonia include:
- A persistent dry cough
- Chest congestion
- Sore throat
- Coldness or chills
- Constant fever
- Shortness of breath and breathing difficulty
- Severe pain in chest and ribs that worsens with breathing or coughing
- Rapid breathing
- Blueness of the lips
- Nausea and vomiting
If you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, immediately consult your doctor.
First of all, a doctor will ask you about your medical history (history of patient’s symptoms) and then examine your chest and lungs with a stethoscope. If you have mild symptoms, your doctor may suggest blood tests or a chest X-ray. If you have pneumonia, your lungs may sound like crackling, bubbling, rumbling and wheezing; and if you are 65 or older, or an infant or young child, the doctor might recommend some additional tests including:
- a chest X-ray
- a CBC – a complete blood count test (it is performed to distinguish between bacterial and viral infection)
- a CT scan of your chest (it is used to check the function of lungs)
- a sputum culture (it is used to find the germs)
- a nasal swab test (it involves testing the secretions of the nose to determine if a person has flu).
- a bronchoscopy test (it allows your doctor to examine your airways (nose, throat and lungs) by inserting a bronchoscope (an instrument).
Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication depending on the type of infection you have. Antibiotics would not help to treat viral pneumonia because it is caused by a virus, not by a bacteria. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics.
Most of the people can be treated at home, but people who are in critical condition due to dehydration or respiratory failure (inability to breathe adequately) may need to be hospitalized and put on ventilators for breathing assistance. Elderly people and patients with other chronic health problems are at risk of dehydration.
Your doctor may prescribe the following medicines by addressing your symptoms:
- Paracetamol to ease fever
- Painkiller for chest and ribs pain (caused by frequent coughing)
- Cough medicine
- Oxygen therapy
- Breathing treatments, like using a humidifier to keep the air cool and moist to breathe easily.
When you have pneumonia, plenty of rest is very essential. Drink a lot of liquids to combat dehydration. It is also very important to stay away from the polluted air like cigarette smoke that can irritate your lungs. Bacterial pneumonia is usually gone within a week or two, but viral pneumonia symptoms can last longer, so visit your doctor after treatment to make sure your lungs are clear.
Risks of Catching Viral Pneumonia
If you have a weak immune system or older then you are at a higher risk for activating pneumonia. Many other health problems can also put you at a higher risk for viral pneumonia. Such as
- Cardiac disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Artery disease
- Chronic bronchitis or emphysema
- Recent cold or flu-like symptoms
- Recent viral infection
Around 200 million individuals get affected by viral pneumonia every year which includes 100 million kids and 100 million adults.
In the United States, pneumonia was a main cause of death in the early decades of the twentieth century. It is still a common enough disease that attacks about 3 to 5 million individuals every year in the United States, with more than 60,000 deaths annually.
Some simple steps can be taken to prevent viral pneumonia.
- Wash your hands with soap and water properly before you eat or prepare food.
- Use sanitizer when you are in public places.
- Get vaccination against influenza, adenovirus, chickenpox, herpes zoster, measles, and rubella.
- Stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing.
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands after using the bathroom or public transportation.
- Do not touch used tissues.
- Avoiding being near people who are sick and don’t share food, drinks, or eating utensils with them.
- While sneezing or coughing, practice courteous and safe way by using the inner crook of your elbow.
- Stay away from smoking as it damages the ability of lungs to fight infection.
Pneumonia, in itself, is not contagious, but the bacteria and viruses that cause the flu, cold, or common infections are contagious and can activate pneumonia. These viruses and bacteria travel through the air in droplets of moisture and can pass from person to person. When an infected person sneezes, coughs, laughs or talks; these droplets can get into other person’s body when he/she inhale.
You can also get viral pneumonia after touching the contaminated surfaces that an infected person touches such as doorknobs, keyboards, desks etc. if people do not wash their hands after touching these infectious things, they can be attacked by viral pneumonia by casually touching their eyes, mouth or nose.