Pneumonia

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Is pneumonia contagious?

Most types of bacterial pneumonia are not highly contagious. Even though it is possible to spread bacteria from one person to another, pneumonia typically occurs in people with risk factors or weakened immune defenses when bacteria that are normally present in the nose or throat invade the lung tissue. Any kind of bacterial or viral pneumonia has the potential to be contagious, but Mycoplasma pneumoniae and tuberculosis are two types of bacterial pneumonia that are highly contagious. Breathing in infected droplets that come from patients who are coughing or sneezing can spread the disease to others.

What is the contagious period for pneumonia?

It is impossible to say with certainty exactly how long a person with pneumonia is contagious, since this varies according to the type of germ or organism that caused the pneumonia. This contagious period can range from one to two days to weeks. In general, while an infected person is coughing or sneezing, there is the potential to release contaminated droplets into the air.

Many bacterial pneumonias are much less contagious after antibiotics have been taken for about 24-48 hours. However, this time period may vary for some organisms. For example, with tuberculosis, it can take two weeks or more of antibiotics before the person is no longer contagious. With viral pneumonias, the patient becomes less contagious after the symptoms have improved, especially fever. Some people with viral pneumonia may not be contagious after one to two days with no fever, but others may still shed some infectious virus particles for a longer time. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 4/22/2016
References
REFERENCES:

American Lung Association. "Pneumonia Fact Sheet." <http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/influenza/in-depth-resources/pneumonia-fact-sheet.html>.

"Healthcare-Associated Pneumonia." Medscape.com. <http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/558518>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Pneumonia." Feb. 25, 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/index.html>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Pneumococcal Vaccination: Who Needs It?" June 19, 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pneumo/vacc-in-short.htm>.

United States. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Types of Pneumonia." Mar. 1, 2011. <http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pnu/types.html>.

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