Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs caused by either bacterial, viral, or fungal pathogens. It causes an acute inflammatory reaction in the airways and causes symptoms in form of cough -dry or sputum with blood tinge, fever -low grade or shivering with chills, congestion, respiratory distress, fast breathing rate, chest pain, especially on deep breath and fluctuations in oxygen levels.
Not many people know that pneumonia is of different types depending upon the pathogen that causes it. Viral and bacterial pneumonia are very common amongst all. To get the right treatment, it is necessary to find identify the type of pneumonia you have, in the first place. In this article, Dr. Neha Rastogi Panda, Consultant, Infectious Diseases at Fortis Memorial Research Institute explains the differences between viral pneumonia and bacterial pneumonia. Scroll down to read.
As per the data available on the internet, viral and bacterial pneumonia are most widespread and account for about 70% of the total cases of community-acquired pneumonia. Out of these two, viral pneumonia is more prevalent. The most commonly reported viral pneumonia are COVID-19, Influenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus, especially in young children. Among bacterial, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Mycoplasma, Haemophilus influenzae are common causative agents.
Also Read: The 6 Types of Pneumonia, Their Symptoms and Causes
Who is more contagious?
According to Dr. Panda, viral pneumonia is more contagious and can spread through droplets released during sneezing and coughing. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, the infection may be passed to a healthy person. The chances are higher in viral pneumonia as compared to bacterial pneumonia. Viral pneumonia can have severe consequences like breathlessness that may require hospitalisation.
Clinical representation or symptoms
Viral pneumonia and bacterial pneumonia are different in terms of clinical presentation. For example, a patient might experience influenza, concomitant gastrointestinal symptoms, moderate to high fever, viral infection in the respiratory tract, etc. if they have viral pneumonia. These symptoms would gradually worsen.
Bacterial pneumonia, on the other hand, is faster in causing severe symptoms. The symptoms would be rapid in this case and you may experience severe complications within a couple of days of the bacterial infection. Therefore, it is important to seek treatment for all types of pneumonia as soon as you begin to experience its symptoms.
Also Read: 5 Serious Complications of Pneumonia That You Should Know About
Radiologically also both are different in terms of presentations on Xray or CT scan. While viral pneumonias are homogenous and small patches involving both lungs, bacterial pneumonias are usually involve one lobe or one lung.
Treatment wise also, in bacterial pneumonia the predominant drug are broad spectrum antibiotics whereas in viral pneumonia, the role of antibiotics is less with more focus on supportive care like fluid intake, paracetamol, antihistamines, and antitussives. Couse of antibiotics is defined for bacterial pneumonias.
One commonality amongst two is that majority of both viral and bacterial pneumonias are vaccine preventable illness. Children are immunised against pneumonia and so, the cases have decreased in the past few years. However, it is still important for adults to watch out for pneumonia and get medical aid whenever required to avert critical complications.
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