4 ways that pneumonia spreads

Health tips

Pneumonia is a serious lung infection that can even be life threatening. It is more serious and more common in babies, people with immune deficiencies and older people, although anyone can get it.

Pneumonia is caused by many things, including viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi. Detecting it promptly starting treatment without delay drastically reduces the possibility of complications.

Pneumonia occurs in 4 different situations:

1. In the community (viruses and bacteria).

Community-acquired pneumonia, outside hospitals and other health care facilities, is the commonest form of pneumonia. The underlying cause is varied:

  • Bacteria: In this case, pneumonia occurs after a cold or flu, or sometimes on its own. It usually affects a whole lobe in the lung and is referred to as lobar pneumonia.
  • Atypical bacteria: This form pneumonia usually produces milder symptoms. It is also known as walking pneumonia and is not severe enough to require bedrest.
  • Fungus: Pneumonia caused by fungi is more common in people with chronic health problems or a weak immune system, and also in people who inhale large amounts of these pathogens. These fungi can be found in soil or bird faeces and vary by geographical location.
  • Viruses:  Some of the viruses that cause colds and flu can also cause pneumonia. Viruses are the commonest cause of pneumonia in children under 5. Viral pneumonia is usually mild, but sometimes worsens and becomes very serious.

2. In hospital

Hospital-acquired pneumonia is most common if you are in hospital for more than 48 hours. This is when you are at highest risk. It can be spread from patient to patient, especially in units where beds are positioned closer together. 

Because hospital patients are already sick and less able to fight infections, they are at a greater risk of succumbing to the particularly dangerous bacteria found in hospitals, which tend to be the very bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic treatment. 

This type of pneumonia is commonly found in in people who are on a ventilator, which is a machine that helps them breathe.

3. In health care facilities

This is a type of bacterial infection that is found in people who are residents in long-term health care facilities or those who attend outpatient clinics, including dialysis centres. As in the case of hospital-acquired pneumonia, this pneumonia is also often caused by bacteria that are more resistant to antibiotics.

4. Lung aspiration

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when you inhale food, drink, vomit or saliva into the lungs.

Aspiration can happen when the body’s swallowing reflex is impaired. This is usually caused by injury to nerves in the throat, brain damage, or drug and alcohol misuse.

Our website uses cookies to improve the user experience. If you continue to browse, we understand that you accept our cookie policy.
For more information, please refer to our Cookies Policy. I agree