Viral pneumonia more likely to affect children than bacterial pneumonia

Viral pneumonia more likely to affect children than bacterial pneumoniaViral pneumonia – or community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) – is more likely to affect children than bacterial pneumonia. A study showed that 73 percent of pneumonia cases in children are viral and only 15 percent tend to be bacterial.

Common pathogens found were respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human rhinovirus, human metapneumovirus (HMPV), adenovirus, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, parainfluenza virus and influenza virus, coronavirus, Streptococcus pneumonia and Staphylococcus aureus, and S. pyogenes.


Additionally, majority of the community-acquired pneumonia cases were seen in children under the age of two, with cases dropping after that age mark.

Seema Jain from the CDC said, “The low prevalence of detection of bacterial pathogens probably reflects both the effectiveness of bacterial conjugate vaccines and relatively insensitive diagnostic tests.”

As part of the CDC’s Etiology of Pneumonia in the Community (EPIC) study, screenings for pediatric CAP were performed from 2010 to 2012 at three children’s hospitals: Le Bonheur Children’s in Memphis, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, and Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Blood samples were taken when pneumonia was suspected along with nasal swabs, pleural fluid, endotracheal aspirates, bronchoalveolar-lavage specimens, paired serum specimens, and chest radiographs. Out of 127,556 screened children, 2,358 children with X-ray confirmed evidence of pneumonia were enrolled in the study.

Asthma or reactive airway diseases were found to be the underlying condition in 51 percent of cases. Bacterial or viral infections were found in 81 percent of children, and children under the age of five were more likely to have RSV.

Viral pneumonia treatment and prevention

Unlike bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia cannot be treated with antibiotics, as they are not effective at treating viruses. Treating viral pneumonia is similar to treating the flu with plenty of rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications to ease symptoms. Other treatments may include corticosteroid medication, oxygen, and the use of a humidifier.

Receiving the flu shot annually does help to prevent pneumonia, and you should also be vaccinated for the shingles or chicken pox to reduce your risk.

Other prevention tips of viral pneumonia is frequent hand-washing, avoiding those who are sick, and not smoking.

Related Reading:

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Bacterial pneumonia risk in HIV patients reduced by quitting smoking

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Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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