Is Lung Infection Contagious?

#1 Dee

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18 May 2011 - 02:11 PM

Is Lung Infection Contagious?

A lung infection occurs when lungs get exposed to bacteria, viruses or other disease-causing agents present in our surroundings. Can these pathogens spread to others through physical contact? Is lung infection contagious?

Is lung infection contagious? Will spending time with an infected person cause one to develop a lung infection? Well, let me first tell you what causes a lung infection. 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 also contains 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 and start wreaking havoc. Under normal circumstances, the immune system gets activated on detecting foreign agents, and the disease-causing bacteria, viruses, fungi or toxins, are all coughed out with mucus, but if this doesn't work, pathogens might find a way into the lungs and start multiplying. When lungs get infected, their ability to function gets greatly affected. As a result, breathing would no longer be effortless. One will experience discomfort while breathing along with other lung infection 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 a lung 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 lung infection. The viruses that cause cold and flu often cause pneumonia, which is a serious lung infection characterized by accumulation of fluid in lungs. Exposure to adenovirus, influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or parainfluenza virus might also lead to a lung infection. Besides these fungi such as Aspergillus or Pneumocystis carinii could also cause a fungal lung infection. These were some of the pathogens that cause pneumonia. So, can these pathogens spread to others through physical contact? Is lung infection contagious? Scroll down to find an answer to this question.

How Long is Lung Infection Contagious

Though pneumonia doesn't figure in the list of infectious diseases as such, however, pathogens that cause this condition could spread from person to person. Streptococcus pneumoniae is one of the most common disease-causing agent that is responsible for causing pneumonia. Besides this bacterium, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) or staph bacteria might also spread by coming 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 in close proximity to an infected person when he/she coughs or sneezes, you might inhale in 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. Wondering how long is bacterial lung infection contagious? Well, it's 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's best to avoid contact with a person with a lung 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. Precautions must be taken by others till the patient has completely recovered from the infection. Many viruses that could cause lung infections can also easily spread to others through physical contact. The possibility of one developing an infection is greater 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.

How is Lung Infection Treated

As mentioned earlier, 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 lung 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 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, anti-viral drugs or anti-fungal drugs for an effective lung infection treatment. Antibiotics such as azithromycin or clarithromycin are often prescribed for treating a bacterial lung 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.

I hope that you found a satisfactory answer to your question on whether lung infection is contagious and how long is lung infection contagious. An absence of timely treatment for flu, causes it to worsen into a lung infection. Exposure to bacteria, fungi and environmental toxins can also cause a lung 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.


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