Three million people are infected by bacteria, viruses, fungi or other organisms that
cause Pneumonia each year. About
60,000 people die from pneumonia each year. The
same bacteria, viruses, fungi and other organisms cause 76 million foodborne
illnesses and 5,000 deaths (1999 figures from CDC).


Reviewer Info: Daniel Levy, M.D., Ph.D., Infectious Diseases, Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Baltimore, MD. ; ADAM
Health Illustrated Encyclopedia, 7/8/2004
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Viral pneumonia is an inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the lungs caused by infection with a virus. See also
respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza.

Alternative Names
Pneumonia - viral

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Pneumonia is an infection of the lung that affects 1 out of 100 people annually. Viral pneumonia is caused by one of
several viruses, including influenza,
parainfluenza, adenovirus, rhinovirus, herpes simplex virus, respiratory syncytial
virus, hantavirus, and cytomegalovirus.

Most cases of viral pneumonia are mild and get better without treatment, but some cases are more serious and require
hospitalization. People at risk for more serious viral pneumonia typically have impaired immune systems such as people
HIV, transplant patients, young children (especially those with heart defects), the elderly, and people taking
medications to suppress their immune systems in the treatment of autoimmune disorders.


Muscular stiffness and aching
Shortness of breath
Sore throat
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
Clammy skin
Nausea and vomiting
Joint stiffness

Signs and tests

Sputum culture
Blood tests for antibodies to specific viruses
Chest x-ray
Open lung biopsy (only done in very serious illnesses when the diagnosis cannot be made from other sources)


Antibiotics are not effective in treating viral pneumonia. Some of the more serious forms can be treated with antiviral
medications. Other supportive care for viral pneumonia includes use of humidified air, increased fluids, and oxygen..
Hospitalization may be necessary to prevent dehydration and to help with breathing if the infection is serious.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most episodes of viral pneumonia improve without treatment within 1-3 weeks, but some episodes last longer and cause
more serious symptoms requiring hospitalization.


More serious infections can result in respiratory failure, liver failure, and heart failure. Sometimes, bacterial infections
occur during or just after viral pneumonia, which may lead to more serious forms of pneumonia.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if symptoms of viral pneumonia develop.