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What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a serious lung infection in which the microscopic air passages in the lungs, called alveoli, become inflamed. The alveoli are air-filled sacs that absorb oxygen. When these passages fill up with pus or mucus, oxygen can't reach the blood. Symptoms for pneumonia may include fever, chills, coughing (with yellow, green, rust-coloured or bloody mucus), chest pains, laboured breathing, fatigue, sweating, upset stomach and poor appetite. Treatment for pneumonia varies depending on the type and severity of the illness. While antibiotics are effective in fighting bacterial pneumonia, they don't work when treating pneumonia of a viral nature.
Bacterial Infections Causing Pneumonia
Pneumonia develops when the body's ability to resist infection fails. The condition can develop from several sources, although one out of every two cases is because of bacterial infections. Bacterial pneumonia is caused by the streptococcus bacteria known as pneumococcus (which also causes other diseases such as ear infections and meningitis). A healthy person has these organisms in his upper respiratory tract. However, if that person infected, they can spread to the lower tract, causing bacterial pneumonia.
How Viral Pneumonia Develops
Viral pneumonia is caused by viruses including influenza, respiratory syncytial and the varicella virus. Although both bacterial and viral pneumonia show the same early symptoms, viral pneumonia isn't as harsh. Fevers are lower and antibiotics aren't given. However, sometimes patients with more serious cases are hospitalised to prevent dehydration, as well as get help breathing.
Other Ways Pneumonia Develops
Environmental sources: people contract pneumonia from the air by inhaling dust or other fine particles such as water vapour.
Parasites: Rarely, people contract pneumonia through parasites which enter the body through the skin. Once inside the body, the parasite travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. Parasites can also enter the body orally.
Fungi: You can contract certain types of pneumonia by inhaling fungi. For example, people with weak immune systems, including people undergoing chemotherapy, are more susceptible to yeast-like fungi known as pneumocystis carlinii.
Self-infection: vomiting occurs and the person breathes in harmful bacteria contents from his own stomach, developing pneumonia.
Is Pneumonia Contagious?
Viruses and bacteria-causing germs found in an infected person's nose and mouth are contagious. However, pneumonia is not as contagious as most believe it is. Of course, catching a cold or flu virus is contagious. The disease of pneumonia that is centred in the lungs that isn't as infectious. Although most people exposed to the disease may catch minor colds and coughs, it's unlikely that exposure to someone with the illness will lead to contamination. Older people and those with weaker immune systems are in more danger of the illness, as they have a lesser chance of recovery than others.
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