A type of pneumonia whose causative agent is a virus is referred to as viral pneumonia. The two main causes of pneumonia are bacteria and viruses while parasites and fungi are causes that are less common. The common causative agents of pneumonia in children are viruses while bacteria are the most common causative agents in adults. Viral pneumonia is mainly characterized by swelling and irritation of the lungs as a result of viral infection. It occurrence is a form of complicated measles, influenza and even chicken pox. There is a high prevalence of viral pneumonia in older adults and children due to the fact that their immune system is not very strong.
Individuals who are at a high risk of viral pneumonia basically have an immune system that is weak and impaired. These individuals include premature babies, Adult patients with HIV/AIDS, organ transplant recipients, children with lung and heart problems, people under chemotherapy or any other medications weakening the immune system. According to statistics by the World Health Organization, the incidence of viral pneumonia is highest in soothe Eastern Part of Asia followed by the African Region. The Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, America and Europe regions have low incidences of viral pneumonia (Marrie, 2001).
As per the year 2000, the incidence of child mortality due to viral pneumonia is highest in the African region, with above 90% of the total number of deaths in children below 5 years occurring in 40 countries within the region. According to estimates by the WHO, two thirds of the said deaths were mainly concentrated in approximately ten countries. India with a total of 408, 000 deaths, showed the highest incidence of child mortality due to viral pneumonia followed by Nigeria.
In addition to inter-country iniquities, there are other critical iniquities concerning the distribution of viral pneumonia. Children from poor family backgrounds residing in rural areas and whose mothers are illiterate have a higher risk of dying as a result of viral pneumonia infection. This is due to the fact that non-educated mothers lack useful knowledge and information regarding viral pneumonia. Most of them are not aware of the various vaccines that are available to prevent viral pneumonia in children. Moreover, they are unaware of the various preventive measures and treatment of this condition. Due to these reasons, children from such backgrounds are at a very high risk of contacting and dying from complications relating to viral pneumonia.
Some of the viruses that are responsible for transmitting viral pneumonia include respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza, influenza and adenovirus. For reproduction to take place, it is essential for viruses to invade cells. Basically, a virus gets to the lungs through moving in form of droplets through the nose and mouth when an individual inhales. The next step is for the virus to invade the airways lining as well as the alveoli. The result of invasion is cell death through self-destruction process or direct killing by the virus (Fraser, 2007).
Therefore, viral pneumonia can be termed as an extremely contagious infection. People infected with viral pneumonia may discharge the virus into the air through mucus droplets as a result of coughing or sneezing. The virus then further enters the lungs of other people following inhaling of droplets containing the virus. The transmission routes are dependent on the type of virus involved in the transmission process. Some of the common routes include small-particle aerosol spread, inoculation onto nasal mucosa, hand contact with infected skin and large-droplet spread over small distances (Marrie, 2001).
Viral pneumonia infection makes the breathing process difficult especially for older people due to inflammation of the lungs. As a result of the condition, fluid builds up in the air sacs located in the lungs and this deters optimal breathing and the exchange of oxygen and air to various body sections. The bronchioles, bronchial tubes, nose, sinuses, throat, larynx, trachea as well as the lungs are affected by viral pneumonia. It is important to note that different types of viruses cause different symptom types. The symptoms most of the times begin slowly and may not show severity initially (Fraser, 2007).
The symptoms to watch for include chills, sweating and fever that do not disappear within one or two days, development of cough that may either sound productive or non-productive, enlarged lymph glands in throat and neck and signs of tiredness or muscle pains that may be accompanies by sweating. Additional symptoms of viral pneumonia are a stabbing and sharp pain in the chest that may worsen due to coughing or deep breathing, loss of appetite, fatigue and low energy, confusion, which occurs mainly in older patients, clammy skin and excessive sweating (Marrie, 2001).
The introduction of viral pneumonia virus into the respiratory tract through contact with respiratory secretions or aerosol is followed by attachment and reproduction of the virus within the cells of the epithelium. Replication of viral cells takes place in both the lower and upper respiratory tract. Immune response to infection in addition to replication of the virus result to the loss and destruction of the cells that line the airway or respiratory tract. Moreover, the immune system’s response to infection is characterized by the damage and destruction of lungs. Leaking of fluid substance into the alveoli is as a result of activation of chemicals known as cytokines by a class of white blood cells known as lymphocytes. The fluid-filled alveoli as well as destruction of cells affect the transport and movement of oxygen into the blood system (Ali, Summer and Levitzky, 2009).
Majority of the viruses cause damage to other organs in addition to the lungs and this may result to development of complications and illnesses that disrupt various functions of the body. The other effect of viruses is that they make weaken the immune system, hence making the body to be at a high risk of contacting bacterial infections and many other infections. Due to this fact, bacteria infection most of the times lead to complication of viral pneumonia in patients (Ali, et al, 2009).
Treatment, prevention and Control
Majority of viral pneumonia cases are mild and therefore do not necessarily require treatment. They may get better within a period of one to three weeks. However, there are some serious cases of viral pneumonia that may call for treatment and hospitalization. Severe complications of viral pneumonia may lead to liver, failure, respiratory failure as well as heart failure. There may be cases of bacterial infection in the course of viral pneumonia infection or a short period after viral pneumonia infection and this may result to more severe types of pneumonia. A healthcare provider should be called up following severe symptoms of viral pneumonia (Parsons and Heffner, 2001).
Viral pneumonia can not be cured by the use of antibiotics. The type of medication that is appropriate is referred to as antiviral, which destroys influenza and viral pneumonia. Other forms of treatment include the use of humidified air, use of oxygen and high fluid levels. In order to deter dehydration and aid in breathing in cases of severe infections, it may be necessary for a patient to be admitted in the hospital. Individuals who have high chances of being hospitalized include those with severe symptoms, those who have been taking antibiotics at home without any signs of improvement, individuals older that the age of 65 and those with other serious medical complications such as kidney or heart complications (Richman, Whitley and Hayden, 2002).
Home treatment is possible for patients with viral pneumonia. The first step to take in cases of home treatment is controlling fever through the use of aspirin, acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is important to note that children should never be administered with aspirin. Patients should restrain from taking cough medicines prior to consulting with their doctor. This is because cough medicine most of the times makes it difficult for the body system to cough up additional sputum. It is also recommendable to drink a lot of fluids to aid in loosening of secretions and bringing up phlegm. Finally, patients are required to get plenty of rest and if possible get some other person to do household chores (Parsons, 2001).
With immediate and fast treatment, it is possible for viral pneumonia to subside within three weeks or a lesser period. Some cases of viral pneumonia however take a much longer period of time to subside. It is advisable for patients to schedule regular visits to medical health providers and get advice on treatment plans. If an individual experiences a sharp increase in temperature beyond 102 degrees, tinged fingernails and skin and increase in shortness of breathe, he or she should immediately seek medical help.
There are several preventive measures for viral pneumonia. First of all, it is essential to wash hands as often as possible especially after visiting the bathroom, blowing the nose, diapering a baby and prior to eating or preparing meals. Smoking should also be avoided since tobacco results to damaging of the lungs’ potential to resist infections. Vaccines may also be helpful in preventing viral pneumonia in the elderly, children, individuals with HIV, asthma, emphysema, cancer and several other chronic complications. Palivizumab drug is most of the times administered to children below the age of 24 months to help in prevention of vital pneumonia. Additionally, Flu vaccine is used to prevent pneumonia as well as other complications resulting from influenza virus. This vaccine should be administered annually to prevent children from new strains of the virus that may arise. Finally, individuals with weak immune systems need to be away from crowds and visitors with cold should be asked to wear masks to prevent transmission of viral pneumonia (Richman, et al, 2002).
Summary and Conclusion
Pneumonia can either be caused by bacteria viruses and in minor cases parasites and viruses. Viral pneumonia is a form of pneumonia caused by viruses and transmitted through respiratory secretions such as mucus and saliva. Shortness of breath, headaches and fatigue are among the common symptoms of viral pneumonia. Individuals who are highly susceptible to this condition are those with weak immune systems and they mainly include young children, the elderly and those with HIV. Antiviral drugs are the type of drugs that are used to treat viral pneumonia. Hospitalization is required for patients with severe symptoms while those with mild conditions can undergo home treatment procedures.
It is essential to take the required preventive measures so as to reduce the chances of infection. These measures include washing hands often, vaccination and avoiding crowded places. Hence, by taking the recommendable and appropriate preventive measures, it is possible to live a healthy life free of infections.
Reason for Choosing the Topic
I chose the topic prior to finding out that several children were losing their lives due to viral pneumonia infection. This gave me the urge and desire to learn more about the topic and discover ways through which this condition can be prevented as well as therapeutic measures that should be taken. One discovery that I made is that this condition is prevalent among the poor and non-educated communities. This also gave me the urge to research and find out why this is the case.
What I Learnt
One of the key concepts that I learnt from my research is that though there are high child mortality cases of viral pneumonia, this is a condition that can be prevented. If only people take their time to learn and practice the required preventive measures, it is possible to control the death rates due to viral pneumonia. Ignorance should not be used as a form of justification or defense. Governments need to take the initiative of implementing education and training programs on health issues such as that of viral pneumonia, its treatment and prevention.
Ali, J., Summer, W. R., & Levitzky, M. G. Pulmonary Patho-physiology. A clinical approach (3rd Ed). McGraw Hill Professional, 2009
Fraser, V. J. Diseases and Disorders. Marshall Cavendish, 2007
Marrie, T. J. Community-acquired pneumonia. Springer, 2001
Parsons, P. E., & Heffner, J. E. Pulmonary/respiratory therapy secrets (2nd Ed). Elsevier Health Sciences, 2001
Richman, D.D., Whitley, R. J., & Hayden, F. G. Clinical Virology (2nd Ed). ASM Press, 2002.