Nearly 80% increase in COVID-19 pneumonia cases, say doctors

With the world under the grip of COVID-19, pneumonia has yet again gained centre stage. Doctors, who said they are seeing a rise in COVID-19 pneumonia cases, pointed out that the pandemic is likely to increase all-cause pneumonia deaths by more than 75%.

Although there is no data available on the number of COVID-19 pneumonia cases, doctors said nearly 80% of the pneumonia cases they are seeing are due to COVID-19.

Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that is most commonly caused by viruses or bacteria. It can cause mild to life-threatening illness in people of all ages, however it is the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide.

The most common route of infection being inhalation, patients have fever, cough with yellow or brown coloured sputum, breathlessness and tiredness as common symptoms.

Pneumonia is caused by multiple factors which can be detected through an X-Ray or CT scan. However, one of the main causes of pneumonia in recent days is COVID-19, said Hirenappa B. Udnur, consultant pulmonologist at Columbia Asia Hospital (Hebbal).

“Currently 60%-80% of pneumonia cases are due to COVID-19. Cases have increased compared to last year particularly during the pandemic. Pneumonia during pre-COVID-19 days was mainly community acquired although oxygen requirement and ventilator support was required as well. Today, the most common complication of COVID-19 is pneumonia,” he said.

“When a patient develops pneumonia, we first get a COVID-19 test done. There is also a specific pattern for pneumonia which can be detected in the CT scan that is suggestive of COVID-19. It clearly shows if the pneumonia is through COVID-19 or other reasons,” he explained.


Vasunethra Kasaragod, consultant chest physician at Vikram Hospital, said as pneumonia is more common among immunocompromised individuals such as those with diabetes, chronic kidney, and cardiovascular disease, it is important to keep these diseases under control to prevent pneumonia.

“Early medical attention and diagnosis is imperative for early recovery. Patients are treated with antibiotics, oxygen and nebulisation most of the time,” he said.

Sachin Kumar, senior consultant, pulmonology and critical care medicine at Sakra World Hospital, said most pneumonia deaths this year are due to COVID-19. “Uneven healthcare services, lack of right equipment or trained healthcare workers to effectively diagnose and treat respiratory infections in most of the low and middle-income countries are some of the contributing factors. Due to this, COVID-19 could add 1.9 million to the death toll this year. Hence, to minimise the death rate, pneumococcal and influenza vaccination for the vulnerable population is recommended,” he said.

Chinnadurai R., consultant in the department of critical care at Aster RV Hospital, said COVID-19 pneumonia has to be treated like any other pneumonia. “Since countries like the U.K. and the U.S. are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, the government should gear up to handle a second wave if it occurs here. People must continue to follow precautions such as social distancing and wearing a mask,” he said.

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Sagar Biswas

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