Viruses are responsible for about a third of all pneumonia, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Viral pneumonias tend to go away in about one to three weeks, but they can increase your risk of bacterial pneumonia.
Viral pneumonia is usually less serious than bacterial pneumonia.
At first, the symptoms of viral pneumonia may be similar to symptoms often associated with the flu, except that you may have a dry cough that does not produce phlegm. You may also develop fever and headache.
But within a few days, these symptoms usually get worse.
Adults with viral pneumonia can also expect to develop:
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle pain
The influenza virus is a common cause of viral pneumonia in adults, which tends to be more severe in people with heart or lung disease, the elderly, and pregnant women.
Not only can the flu cause pneumonia, but it can also predispose people to bacterial pneumonia – another good reason to get the flu shot every year.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) pneumonia, another type of viral pneumonia, is usually a mild infection that clears up in about a week or two. It can be more serious and is more common in young children and older adults. In fact, RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia in children younger than 12 months, according to the CDC.
In recent years, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has caused viral pneumonia. COVID pneumonia often affects both lungs, and it tends to spread slowly through the lungs, lasting longer and causing more damage than other types of pneumonia, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
If you have COVID pneumonia, you will likely be admitted to hospital and treatment may include certain antiviral drugs, such as remdesivir, which targets the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Another antiviral is Paxlovid, although it is an outpatient drug, intended to be prescribed to patients not admitted to hospital.