Most people who get COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms like coughing, a fever, and shortness of breath. But some who catch the new corona virus get severe pneumonia in both lungs. COVID-19 pneumonia is a serious illness that can be deadly.
The illness tied to the new corona-virus was originally called novel corona virus-infected pneumonia (NCIP). The World Health Organization renamed it COVID-19, which is short for corona-virus disease 2019.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that causes inflammation in the tiny air sacs inside your lungs. They may fill up with so much fluid and pus that it’s hard to breathe. You may have severe shortness of breath, a cough, a fever, chest pain, chills, or fatigue.
Your doctor might recommend cough medicine and pain relievers that reduce fever. In the most serious cases, you may need to go to the hospital for help breathing with a machine called a ventilator. You can get pneumonia as a complication of viral infections such as COVID-19 or the flu, or even a common cold. But bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms can also cause it.
The symptoms of COVID-19 pneumonia may be similar to other types of viral pneumonia. Because of this, it can be difficult to tell what’s causing your condition without being tested for COVID-19 or other respiratory infections.
Research is underway to determine how COVID-19 pneumonia differs from other types of pneumonia. Information from these studies can potentially help in diagnosis and in furthering our understanding of how SARS-CoV-2 affects the lungs.
One study used CT scans and laboratory tests to compare the clinical features of COVID-19 pneumonia to other types of pneumonia. Researchers found that people with COVID-19 pneumonia were more likely to have:
About 15% of COVID-19 cases are severe. That means they may need to be treated with oxygen in a hospital. About 5% of people have critical infections and need a ventilator. People who get pneumonia may also have a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). It’s a disease that comes on quickly and causes breathing problems.
The new coronavirus causes severe inflammation in your lungs. It damages the cells and tissue that line the air sacs in your lungs. These sacs are where the oxygen you breathe is processed and delivered to your blood. The damage causes tissue to break off and clog your lungs. The walls of the sacs can thicken, making it very hard for you to breathe.
The symptoms of COVID-19 pneumonia are similar to the symptoms of other types of pneumonia and can include: