Do All Patients With COVID-19 Get Pneumonia
According to the CDC, about 3%-17% of patients with COVID-19 develop lung-related complications that require hospitalization such as pneumonia

According to the CDC, about 3%-17% of patients with COVID-19 develop lung-related complications that require hospitalization, such as pneumonia. Many infected individuals may have no symptoms of pneumonia, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, or high fever, even though radiological investigations reveal lung lesions.

In initial stages, COVID-19 typically causes mild flu-like symptoms, such as coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. In later stages, it can lead to pneumonia that leads to respiratory distress syndrome. COVID-19 pneumonia is a life-threatening infection that can lead to death. However, not everyone is at risk for pneumonia and severe illness.

Although COVID-19 can affect anyone irrespective of age and health status, people with weak immunity, diabetes, or other such comorbidities are susceptible to developing serious illness from the virus.

Who is at higher risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19?

People who are at a higher risk of developing severe illness due to COVID-19 include those who:

  • Are older (over age 60)
  • Have underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer
  • Are immunocompromised due to conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or HIV or are on long-term steroid medication
  • Are obese
  • Have not been vaccinated for COVID-19

How is pneumonia diagnosed?

Pneumonia is an acute respiratory disorder characterized by inflammation and exudative solidification of the lung parenchyma. It fills the alveoli with inflammatory exudates that result in the consolidation of the lungs.

Chest X-ray is normal in the initial stages if the infection is mild. The characteristic feature is a consolidation of the lungs and ground-glass opacities in the lower lobes of both lungs. The gold standard for diagnosis is high resolution computed tomography scan (HR-CT) that shows the extent of lung involvement and pleural effusion.

What are the different types of pneumonia?

There are three types of pneumonia based on the anatomical classification:

  1. Lobar pneumonia
  2. Bronchopneumonia
  3. Interstitial pneumonia

There are three types of pneumonia based on the etiology or the cause:

  1. Primary
  2. Secondary
  3. Suppurative

There are five types of pneumonia based on the clinical setting in which the infection occurs:

  1. Community-acquired acute pneumonia
  2. Community-acquired atypical pneumonia
  3. Nosocomial pneumonia or hospital-acquired pneumonia
  4. Pneumonia in the immunocompromised host
  5. Healthcare-associated pneumonia

What are the complications of pneumonia?

Systemic complications include acute respiratory distress syndrome, endocarditis, pericarditis, meningitis, suppurative arthritis, and sepsis.

Local complications include lung abscess and the spread of infection to the pleural cavity. It may lead to the accumulation of pus in the lungs, called pyothorax.

How can severe illness from COVID-19 be prevented?

COVID-19 vaccines train the immune system to recognize and combat the virus effectively and prevent serious illness in case of exposure. If a person who has been vaccinated is exposed to the coronavirus, antibodies will fight the virus and offer protection against against the disease

Several vaccines have been developed for COVID-19, the purpose of which is to generate an immune response specific to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Most COVID-19 vaccines use the coronavirus spike protein to trigger an immune response. Spike proteins live on the surface of the coronavirus and cause sickness by helping the virus attach to cells. Once the spike protein enters the body, the immune system recognizes it as foreign and releases immune cells and antibodies to attack the invader. These antibodies linger in the bloodstream, meaning they can fight the virus more swiftly and effectively if exposed to the virus in the future.

The FDA has declared that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine meets the safety and efficacy standards for authorization in children ages 5-11, and scientists are continuing to conduct studies regarding this. In healthy children and adults, immunization is safe and effective. Other approved vaccinations in the U.S. include the Moderna mRNA vaccine and Janssen viral vector vaccine.

Before getting vaccinated, those with underlying medical issues should visit a doctor. Children ages 2-4, unvaccinated children ages 5 or older, and adults should continue to wear masks and maintain social distance in public areas.

What are the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Aid in the prevention of COVID-19
  • Reduce the risk of serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19
  • Contribute to herd immunity by making it harder for the disease to spread as the number of people who are protected from COVID-19 grows
  • Prevent COVID-19 virus from spreading and replicating, not allowing it to mutate

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Medically Reviewed on 12/21/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

American Academy of Pediatrics. COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 receives final approval. https://publications.aap.org/aapnews/news/17965?autologincheck=redirected

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for Emergency Use in Children 5 through 11 Years of Age. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-authorizes-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine-emergency-use-children-5-through-11-years-age

Cennimo DJ. COVID-19 Vaccines. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2500139-overview

Medscape. COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-Pfizer (Rx). https://reference.medscape.com/drug/bnt-162b2-pfizer-covid-19-vaccine-mRNA-pfizer-4000140

Edwards KM, Orenstein WA. COVID-19: Vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/covid-19-vaccines-to-prevent-sars-cov-2-infection

UpToDate. Characteristics of select COVID-19 vaccines. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/image?imageKey=ID%2F130711

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Clinical Guidance for Management of Patients with Confirmed Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html