Viral Pneumonia Overview
Pneumonia is an infection or inflammation of the lungs. It can be in just one part of the lungs, or it can involve many parts. Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. The severity of pneumonia depends on which organism is causing the infection and the immune response of the individual to that infection. Viral pneumonias are usually not very serious, but they can be life-threatening in very old and very young patients and in people whose immune systems are weak.
Two of the most publicized viral infections causing pneumonia are SARS and H1N1 swine flu. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which is caused by a virus in the coronavirus family, had a major outbreak in 2003 with an estimated 8,000 cases and 750 deaths. For the latest information on this illness, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site.
Swine flu (H1N1) was associated with an outbreak of pneumonia in 2009. Early reports came from cases in Mexico, with a very high mortality. Many cases were also reported in the U.S. However, early identification and treatment helped reduce the death rate significantly.
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