Dec. 19, 2008 -- Question: What is pneumonia, what are the symptoms, and how is it treated?
Answer: Pneumonias usually come in different flavors. While the end result is basically tissue damage at the level of the lung tissues, the causative agents or microbes that lead to pneumonia are pretty diverse. In the medical literature we recognize many types of pneumonias. But the two most common types of pneumonias are really the viral causes -- and examples would be influenza pneumonia, which is prevalent during the winter season, but also if we talk about children and the younger population, there's respiratory syncytial viral pneumonia, which is RSV pneumonia, that can also be present in the young adult but also in the very elderly population.
But there is also the bacterial pneumonias. And the bacterial pneumonias, again, can be caused by microbes. A multitude of bacteria can affect the respiratory tract causing pneumonias. And in general -- and this is not a blank statement because exceptions do exist -- bacterial pneumonias are somewhat more serious than viral pneumonias.
There are other types of pneumonias. One type is called atypical pneumonia, and better known as walking pneumonia. These are two or three different bacteria, atypical bacteria, which cause this. They're treated a bit differently, also with antibiotics, the same as with bacterial pneumonias, but with different antibiotics.
And we also deal sometimes, unfortunately in hospitalized patients who have very poor immunity, fungal pneumonias can be an etiology, and, unfortunately, in these specific situations, both the prognosis is bad and the sort of long-term outlook is also dire.