Is Bacterial Pneumonia Contagious?A person with bacterial pneumonia is contagious. However, when the bacteria are spread, they are more likely to cause an upper respiratory infection than pneumonia in another person.
These bacteria are usually found in the mouth and nose of the infected person. They can be spread easily to another person, either through the air or by touching a contaminated surface. Most often, they enter the person's body through the mouth, nose, or eyes.
Why Do Some People Get Bacterial Pneumonia and Others Don't?Although the body has an advanced system for getting rid of potentially harmful substances that make their way into the lungs, it is not perfect. In some cases, so many bacteria get into the lungs that they simply overwhelm the defense system.
In other cases, diseases may make the system unable to function as well as normal. This can be from chronic diseases, like diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or diseases that affect the immune system, such as HIV or AIDS.
Other times, the particular bacteria are just so potent that the body can't handle them.
With any of these situations, a person risk for developing bacterial pneumonia is increased.
(Click Pneumonia Risk Factors to learn about other things that increase a person's chances of getting pneumonia.)
Are Antibiotics Needed for Bacterial Pneumonia?Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics (see Antibiotics and Pneumonia). When these medications are prescribed, they should be taken exactly as prescribed and for the entire period, even when you start to feel better. If you stop taking them too soon, the pneumonia may come back.
Sometimes, a person is sick enough that he or she needs to stay in the hospital while receiving antibiotics. They often require more potent antibiotics, which are given through an IV. These drugs include:
- Ceftriaxone (Rocephin®)
- Cefotaxime (Claforan®)
- Ampicillin/sulbactam (Unasyn®)
- Ertapenem (Invanz®)
- Vancomycin (Vancocin®)
- Linezolid (Zyvox®).
Other times, a person with bacterial pneumonia can be treated at home. Antibiotics that are often prescribed in this case include one or more of the following:
- Azithromycin (Zithromax®)
- Clarithromycin (Biaxin®)
- Amoxicillin (Amoxil®)
- Amoxicillin and clavulanate potassium (Augmentin®)
- Levofloxacin (Levaquin®)
- Moxifloxacin (Avelox®)
- Gemifloxacin (Factive®)
- Erythromycin (often given for pneumonia in children).
(Click Pneumonia Treatment for more information on how this condition is treated.)