A lung infection occurs when lungs get exposed to bacteria, viruses, or other disease-causing agents present in our surroundings. Pathogens that cause such infections can spread to others through physical contact, especially through inhalation of respiratory secretions. This HealthHearty write-up provides information on such respiratory tract infections.
The nasal passage, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and the lungs are all components of the respiratory system. While all these components work in conjunction and help us breathe, it is within the lungs, that the vital exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. The respiratory process is essential for our survival, so, you can imagine the effect lung diseases would have on the human body. Since air that we inhale might contain harmful germs or environmental pollutants, there is a great need to protect our respiratory system.
Our immune system has its own way of dealing with this situation, but if the immune system itself is weak, these germs can find a way into the lungs, thereby causing an infection. Under normal circumstances, the immune system gets activated on detecting foreign agents, and the disease-causing bacteria, viruses, fungi, or toxins, etc., are all coughed out with mucus. However, if this mechanism doesn’t work, pathogens could find a way into the lungs and start multiplying. When lungs get infected, the act of breathing would no longer be effortless. Besides breathing problems, one may also experience symptoms such as chest congestion, wheezing, chills, fever, cough, or loss of appetite.
Pathogens that Cause Lung Infection
As mentioned earlier, a lung infection occurs when bacteria, viruses, or environmental pollutants enter into the lungs. The pathogens that are likely to cause such an infection include bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). These bacteria generally live on the human body itself, but when they find a way into the lungs and multiply, they cause a bacterial infection in the lungs.
Viruses that cause cold and flu often cause pneumonia, which is a serious infection characterized by accumulation of fluid in lungs. Exposure to adenovirus, influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or parainfluenza virus might also lead to this infection. Fungi such as Aspergillus or Pneumocystis carinii could also cause a fungal infection. Physical contact with an infected person can cause the transmission of the causal pathogen, thereby causing one to develop an infection. Thus, one must follow precautionary measures.
How Long is a Lung Infection Contagious
Though pneumonia doesn’t figure in the list of infectious diseases as such, pathogens that cause this condition could spread from person to person. Streptococcus pneumoniae is one of the common disease-causing agents that is responsible for causing pneumonia. Besides this bacterium, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) or staph bacteria might also spread, if one comes in contact with an infected person. Bacterial pneumonia may be community-acquired or hospital-acquired. Hospital-acquired bacterial infection, as the name suggests, occurs as a result of pathogens spreading in a hospital setting. Community-acquired infectious diseases occur due to inhalation of pathogens from the surroundings. If you are standing or sitting near an infected person when he/she coughs or sneezes, you might inhale the respiratory secretions, and that might make you susceptible to an infection.
Hospitalized patients may be at a greater risk of catching an infection due to their weakened immune system. In case of a person affected by a bacterial infection, it has been seen that there is a likelihood of bacteria spreading to others even a couple of days after the patient starts the course of antibiotics. So, it would be best to avoid contact with a person who has been diagnosed with a lower respiratory tract infection. The patients’ must also make an effort to prevent the infection from spreading to others. Covering their face while coughing or sneezing might help to a great extent. Family members must take precautions till the patient recovers from the infection completely. Many viruses that could cause lung infections can also easily spread to others through physical contact. There is a great possibility of one developing an infection if one’s immune system is already weak. If you recently recovered from an illness, make sure that you avoid contact with anybody who has been diagnosed with cold, flu, or pneumonia.
A lung infection is not contagious in itself, but certain causal organisms that lead to such infections can be passed on to others through physical contact. This is why, it becomes essential that such infections are treated at the earliest. Viruses causing cold and flu can easily spread and a flu might worsen into a lung infection. So, treating cold or flu at the earliest will lower the risk of a lung infection as well. If one experiences symptoms associated with cold, flu, or pneumonia, it would be best to go for a medical checkup. Blood culture, chest X-rays, sputum analysis, or other diagnostic tests are generally conducted to examine the condition of lungs and also determine the causal organism responsible for causing the infection.
Depending on the results of these diagnostic tests, doctors will recommend the use of antibiotics, antiviral drugs, or antifungal drugs for treating a respiratory tract infection. Antibiotics such as azithromycin or clarithromycin are often prescribed for treating a bacterial infection. Taking anti-flu drugs such as amantadine, rimantadine, or zanamivir can also prevent flu from worsening into viral pneumonia. Administration of vaccines or immunization shots is one of the best precautionary measures. Since pathogens can spread to others through physical contact, refrain from maintaining contact with an infected person.
In the absence of timely treatment, flu may worsen into a lung infection. Exposure to bacteria, fungi, and environmental toxins can also cause an infection. So, take all precautionary measures always to ensure that you are protected. If you ever experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.