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Is Bacterial Pneumonia Contagious?

Is Bacterial Pneumonia Contagious?

The condition involving inflammation of lungs, caused by bacteria, is known as bacterial pneumonia. But is bacterial pneumonia contagious? Keep reading to find out!
Narayani Karthik
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2018
Pneumonia is a serious medical condition which is induced by bacteria, virus, fungus and parasites. This respiratory disorder is differentiated as viral or bacterial, depending on the pathogen that triggers infection. However, here, we will be discussing pneumonia, caused by bacteria. Pneumonia is a lung infection that sets in with a severe chest pain, cough, fever and shortness of breath. Triggered due to bacterial infestation in the alveoli of the lungs, this respiratory disorder causes tissue inflammation. But is bacterial pneumonia contagious? Yes, it is! Pneumonia can be spread when a healthy person comes in contact with an infected individual or the things he has been using. Sharing contaminated utensils, bed sheets, handkerchiefs etc. can also spread this breathing disorder.

What Causes Pneumonia
As mentioned, pneumonia can be caused by either bacterial, fungal, parasitic or viral infection. The bacterial infections are caused by the following gram negative bacteria:
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus bacteria (typical bacteria)
  • Staphylococcus aureus (including the methicillin resistant strain MRSA)
  • Escherichia coli
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Enterobacter species
  • Acinetobacter species
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae (atypical bacteria)
  • Haemophilus influenzae (typical bacteria)
  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae (atypical bacteria)
  • Legionella pneumoniae (atypical bacteria)
In most cases, these bacteria travel in air via cough, sneeze or phlegm. As these organisms travel into the nasal tract, down into the lungs, they infest in the air sacs and lung passage, where they gradually start spreading from. In due course of time, the lung is inflamed and is filled with fluid and pus (which is an over secretion of white blood cells that aid in fighting the infection).

Types of Bacterial Pneumonia
Pneumonia has been classified as per the bacterial type and the place it has been acquired. Below listed are the types of this respiratory disorder.
  • Community acquired: CAP (Community acquired pneumonia) is a kind of infection caused in a person who has not been hospitalized but has contracted it through air borne bacteria. This kind is mostly caused by the atypical gram negative bacteria (listed above in the article), the main causes being streptococcus pneumoniae and haemophilus influenzae.
  • Hospital acquired: This is also known as noscomial pneumonia, which a person gets infected with, during or post hospitalization (72 hours within admission). The factors responsible for this condition attribute to hospital acquired resistant bacteria like MRSA, enterobacter, pseudomonas and serratia, which may be present already in mechanical ventilation ducts or may have been present in the hospitalized patient. Such patients may already be suffering from conditions like malnutrition, cardiovascular and respiratory ailments or a compromised immune system. This can further aggravate to severe lung infection which can be life-threatening. One example of such type is VAP (Ventilator associated pneumonia) which can happen in hospitalized patients, 48 years after intubation.
  • Health care associated/Clinical: Health associated pneumonia is a condition where the infection has been contracted by a person in health care settings such as nursing homes, clinics and dialysis centers. This condition is further classified as acute and chronic. Acute form of pneumonia is caused by streptococcus pneumoniae, chlamydia pneumoniae and mycoplasma pneumoniae (this also causes walking pneumonia). Chronic condition of health associated pneumonia mostly happens to be non infectious, caused by mycobaterium tuberculosis, and fungus: histoplasma capsulatum and coccidioides immitis.
  • Aspiration Pneumonia: This condition can occur if a person suffering from influenza, accidentally inhales food, vomit, fluid (like saliva) into lungs due to untimely gag reflexes of the body. It can cause cavities in lungs, leading to lung abscess.
Here are some prominent signs and symptoms that are triggered by bacteria:
  • High-grade fever
  • Coughing yellow or brown sputum
  • Tingling chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath
  • Frequent chills
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe headache
  • Delusion
Risk factors that can aggravate this lung problem are:
  • Smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Chronic lung diseases like bronchitis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Compromised immune system (like HIV AIDS)
  • Severe form of diabetes mellitus
  • Respiratory infections like influenza and laryngitis
  • Cerebral palsy
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis is confirmed if crackling sound in lungs is heard by the doctor when he is checking the patient's chest with a stethoscope. In complicated cases, arterial blood gas tests, CT scan, Gram's stain culture and pleural fluid culture are carried out to understand the underlying conditions responsible for the lung infection.

Milder form is often treated with fluids and antibiotics injected in the patient's veins, oxygen therapy and breathing treatments. However, once admitted, the patient is subjected to antibiotic medication to stall the bacterial infestation in lungs. Antibiotics (in mild condition) include oral macrolide antibiotics (azithromycin, clarithromycin, or erythromycin). For people who are already suffering from heart diseases and pulmonary ailments are treated with fluoroquinolone, gemifloxacin, moxifloxacin, high-dose amoxicillin-clavulanate with a macrolide antibiotic (azithromycin, clarithromycin, or erythromycin) and cephalosporin antibiotics (for example, cefuroxime or cefpodoxime) plus a macrolide (azithromycin, clarithromycin, or erythromycin). But remember, in the diagnosis it is confirmed if the lung infection is bacterial or viral. It is important to know it because antibiotic treatments do not work for virus-induced pneumonia.

So now, you readers have got an answer for your question: "Is bacterial pneumonia contagious?". But then another question rises: How long is pneumonia contagious? The answer depends on how punctual the patient is in completing the antibiotic course prescribed to him. And it is very important to maintain personal and health hygiene conditions as well. When sneezing and coughing, take care that your nose and mouth are covered. Also consume a lot of vitamin supplements in your daily diet to strengthen your immune system. Pneumonia, caused by either bacteria or virus, is definitely curable, but with a compromised immune system, the condition can become life-threatening.