If a person suffering from pneumonia is weak, the disease can prove to be dangerous for him. Pneumonia develops in the lungs from an infection which can be caused by various microorganisms like bacteria, virus or fungus. If a person’s immune system is too weak to fight the growth of these organisms, he will get the disease.
In the United States, more than 3 million people develop pneumonia each year, and about 17% of these receive treatment in a hospital. Most people with pneumonia recover, but about 5% will succumb to the condition.
The primary causes of pneumonia are bacteria and viruses. These agents enter a person’s body through respiration and settle in small air sacs called alveoli where they continue multiplying. The body, in its defence, sends white blood cells to attack the infection. As a result, the sacs get filled with fluid and pus thus causing pneumonia.
The various causes of pneumonia are summarised below.
Alcoholics and people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) get pneumonia from Klebsiella pneumoniae and Hemophilus influenza most often. Bacteria Mycoplasma pneumonia causes atypical pneumonia- a type of pneumonia that occurs typically in summers and months of fall.
Contaminated water and air conditions often contain bacterium Legionella pneumonia which causes Legionnaire’s disease. People suffering from this disease are at a greater risk of acquiring pneumonia as a part of their normal function. Another type of bacteria responsible for pneumonia is called Chlamydia pneumoniae.
There is one more type of bacterial pneumonia called Pneumocystis carinii which affects both the lungs of the patients. It usually targets people with weak immune system, more likely people who suffer from health conditions like cancer and AIDS.
In contrast to bacterial pneumonias, viral pneumonias do not respond to antibiotic treatments. Adenoviruses, rhinovirus, influenza virus (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and para-influenza virus are all potential causes of viral pneumonia.
Various fungal infections can lead to fungal pneumonia. Histoplasmosis, coccidiomycosis, blastomycosis, aspergillosis, and cryptococcosis are examples of such fungal infections.
Nosocomical organisms are the ones that have been exposed to strong antibiotics and have developed resistance against them. If nosocomical organisms enter a person’s lungs, he may develop nosocomical pneumonia. This kind of resistant bacteria is found in nursing homes and hospitals.
Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus or MRSA is an organism which can cause skin infections along with pneumonia. Similarly, outbreaks of the H5N1 influenza (bird flu) virus and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) have resulted in serious pneumonia infections. Anthrax, plague, and tularemia also may cause pneumonia, but their occurrences are rare.
Pneumonia can be prevented by several ways. Two vaccines that are available to prevent it are pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Pneumovax).
In addition to vaccination, washing hands, refraining from smoking, eating healthy, exercising and avoiding cough particles are some preventive measures to keep pneumonia at bay.
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