A recent article on a science website claimed that the deadly 1918-1919 influenza epidemic was made more lethal by bacterial pneumonia infections in influenza patients. While an epidemic of the same scale has not recurred, bacterial strains of pneumonia continue to kill around 40,000-70,000 people annually across the globe. It infects more than three times that number.
So, what causes this disease? Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Bacterial infections are the deadliest and the most common cause of pneumonia in adults. Bacterial pneumonia results in an inflammation of lungs. The major bacterial agents of pneumonia are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus pyogenes. Other strains include Pneumocystis jiroveci, which can cause life threatening infections for those afflicted with HIV. Even TB germs can lead to pneumonia in patients with an insufficient immune function.
Is There A Way To Prevent Infections?
Studies have shown that some people are at a higher risk of developing bacterial pneumonia than others. Besides people grappling with poor health and illnesses, such as heart problems, diabetes, liver malfunction, immune system disorders, dementia or impaired neural functioning, smokers, people living in crowded facilities and nursing homes, and those suffering from recurring lung and breathing problems are at higher risk. Identifying the population at risk is the first step to prevention.
Maintaining hygiene is one of the most effective ways to curb infections. Always wash your hands after visiting the restroom, changing diapers, and before meals. Sneeze in a handkerchief or tissue paper. Ask your doctor for information on vaccines for bacterial pneumonia, which is administered to high risk population, including patients with critical illnesses.
What Are The Symptoms?
Symptoms Of Bacterial Pneumonia Are Often Mistaken For Common Flu. Watch Out For:
* Difficulty in breathing
* Fever and persistent chills
* Chest pain
* Rapid weight loss
* Phlegm that is tinged red-brown
* Loss of appetite
If you are at a higher risk of infection, you should contact your doctor if your “cold” lasts for more than three days.
Diagnosis And Treatment
A doctor will use a stethoscope to find out if your lungs make unusual sounds while you breathe. If the doctor feels you have bacterial pneumonia, he might ask you to undergo an X-ray. Additional diagnostic procedures include blood tests, CT scan, and sputum test.
Based on the doctor’s assessment, you might be admitted to a hospital or be administered antibiotics at home. Hospitalization is recommended for patients who have nobody to care for them at home, are not showing any signs of improvement through antibiotic treatment, or suffering from other illnesses.
Besides medication, you can improve your chances of recovery by drinking a lot of water, following doctor’s instructions closely, and taking a few days off from work to rest. You must also take adequate precautions to prevent the spread of infection.
Bacterial pneumonia might cause complications in HIV affected and diabetic patients. In such cases, the patient might need to be hospitalized and put on a ventilator or undergo surgery to remove fluid collecting around lungs.