Viruses are responsible for about one-third of all pneumonias, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Viral pneumonias tend to clear up 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 you may experience a dry cough that does not produce phlegm. You may also develop a fever and headache.
But within a couple of days, these symptoms typically get worse.
Adults with viral pneumonia can also expect to develop:
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle pain
The flu virus is a common cause of viral pneumonia in adults, which tends to be more serious in people with heart or lung disease, senior citizens, and pregnant women.
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 severe 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, per the CDC.
In the last few 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 across the lungs slowly, lasting longer and causing more damage than other types of pneumonia, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
If you have COVID pneumonia, you’ll likely be admitted to the hospital, and treatment may include certain antiviral medications, such as remdesivir, which targets the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Another antiviral is Paxlovid, though this is an outpatient medication, meant to be prescribed to patients not admitted to the hospital.