Bacteria Home > Difference Between Viral and Bacterial Pneumonoia

There are many similarities to be found when comparing viral and bacterial pneumonia. For example, they are both contagious, potentially serious infections of one or both lungs. Both types cause cough, fatigue, headache, fever, and other symptoms.
However, bacterial and viral pneumonia also have many differences. For example, the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia usually come on rapidly and tend to be more severe. Viral pneumonia symptoms tend to appear more gradually and not be as intense. Often, symptoms of viral pneumonia will begin a couple of days after a person has developed upper respiratory symptoms, such as congestion or a sore throat.
Bacterial and viral pneumonia also have different treatment options. Because bacteria respond to antibiotics, bacterial pneumonia is typically treated with these medications. If a medicine is prescribed for viral pneumonia, it is usually an antiviral drug.
(To learn more about the differences between these conditions, click Viral Pneumonia or Bacterial Pneumonia. These articles give an overview of how these conditions are spread, symptoms to look out for, incubation periods, and more.)
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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