Respiratory Disorders Expert Forum
Contagious?
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Contagious?

From the 1950's I've always heard that pneumonia was NOT contagious. Now I've heard from a reputed "reliable" source that is IS. Which is it?
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Most infectious pneumonias are contagious, since they can be spread from one person to another.  Generally healthy people do not fall ill to pneumonia.  Many viruses and bacteria can cause infectious pneumonia.  When certain germs cause pneumonia, it can be very contagious.  An example of this is when it is caused by the bacteria streptococcus pneumonia.  This is often seen as an outbreak in young healthy military recruits living in the same barracks.

Pneumonia caused by a fungus or an opportunistic infection, which effects people with AIDS, it is not contagious.  Some people are more likely to fall ill to pneumonia such as those with diabetes, alcoholism, any chronic lung problem, a chronic sinus problem, a weakened immune system, aspiration, and the elderly.

There can also be non-infectious causes of pneumonia.  Some examples are hypersensitivity pneumonitis, chemical inhalation, and smoke inhalation.  These are not contagious.

Pneumonia is inflammation of the lung.  This is most commonly due to an infection.  Inhaling bacteria or viruses is usually the way pneumonia is spread.  Generally bacterial pneumonia will come on very suddenly while viral pneumonia will develop more slowly.  Symptoms may include cough, chest pain, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, fever, chills, sweats, headache, weakness, tiredness, and a general feeling of discomfort and body aches.  It is generally best diagnosed by chest x-ray in addition to a thorough examination.  Treatment is based on the severity of the symptoms and the type of germ causing the infection.  Antibiotics will help a bacterial infection, but will not help a viral or fungal infection.  Over time the body's natural defenses will clear a viral infection.  An antifungal is needed for the uncommon fungal infection.  Please read our Pneumonia MedFact at http://www.nationaljewish.org/medfacts/pneumonia.html for more information.

Preventative measures include frequent hand washing or the use of alcohol-based hand rubs.  Also covering your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue before sneezing or coughing will help to decrease the spread.  Other preventive measures include good medical control of health problems that make a person more likely to fall ill to pneumonia such as diabetes, alcoholism, any chronic lung problem, a chronic sinus problem, a weakened immune system, as well as aspiration.  This is the entry of foreign materials, including food and gastric contents, into the windpipe of the lungs.  Also avoid smoking.  If you smoke, ask your doctor about ways to help you become smoke free.
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