Pneumonia is a condition marked by inflammation and infection of the lungs. It is usually treatable, but potentially dangerous. In fact, this respiratory condition can be deadly. It is diagnosed in people of all ages, though it may be more prevalent in those who are very old or very young.
Pneumonia can be contagious. It can be spread by coughs and sneezes that send infection-causing organisms into the air, where they are inhaled by another person. According to the Mayo Clinic, it kills more than 60,000 people in the United States each year, and it is one of the leading causes of death in youth around the world. Besides children, it is also a serious problem for older people and those with impaired immune systems.
Pneumonia can be caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus. Bacterial pneumonia can be caused by variety of bacteria and is marked by quick onset, shaking, chills, sweating, shortness of breath, productive cough--producing mucus--and high fever. Viral pneumonia is caused by viruses and is marked by a cough that is nonproductive, headaches, muscle pains and fever. Later in the illness, a person may develop a cough that is accompanied by a small amount of clear or white mucus. Fungi pneumonia is caused by a fungus and is less common than other types. Most people experience few symptoms with this type, but they are often similar to those of bacterial or viral pneumonia. Pneumocystis carinii is one type of fungal pneumonia that attacks people with weakened immune systems, such as those with AIDS. This type causes a cough that doesn't fade with time, shortness of breath and fever.
You can develop pneumonia and not even know it. Mycoplasm bacteria pneumonia causes symptoms that are similar to other types of the condition, but they may be more mild and the onset more gradual. Some people don't become ill enough to realize they have pneumonia, so it is nicknamed walking pneumonia. It is contagious and is often spread where people have close contact on a daily basis, such as in schools.
Because many types of pneumonia are contagious, many people think it is easy to catch from another person. According to Ask Dr. Sears, pneumonia is actually hard to catch. However, the organisms that cause it are often very contagious, such as viral illnesses like colds and flu. Generally, a person may catch a cold or another type of illness from a person with pneumonia and not develop pneumonia herself. Whether or not the organism causes pneumonia depends on the state of that individual's lungs and her overall health.
There are some ways to prevent pneumonia. First, there are pneumonia vaccines that can protect against certain types of the condition. One type of vaccine is given to people who are 55 years old and older. It may also be given to people who have chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is often used to help protect children under 2 years old as well as older children with chronic illnesses or immune system deficiencies. According to the National Institutes of Health, it also helps to wash your hands to prevent germs that may cause the pneumonia from gaining an easy route into your body.