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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Last year, did an ache, pain, illness, diagnosis or simple curiosity about health and wellness lead you to the Internet for more information? If so, you weren't alone.

"So many of us, doctors included, turn to reputable online resources for health-related information," said family medicine physician Cassandra Tunis, DO, Geisinger Pittston. "There are thousands of identified illnesses, it's impossible to know everything about them all - that's when these resources become incredibly helpful."

In 2015, many people were asking the Internet some of the same health-related questions. One of those questions was, "Is it contagious?" More specifically, we were searching to find out if bronchitis and pneumonia are contagious.

Here are the answers to your questions.

Is bronchitis contagious?

"Acute bronchitis occurs when the lungs' bronchial tubes become inflamed and irritated, producing mucus that causes you to cough," Dr. Tunis said. "Bronchitis usually is caused by a cold or flu."

Though the viruses that cause a cold or flu are contagious, acute bronchitis itself is not likely to be contagious.

"Bronchitis and airway inflammation aren't necessarily contagious - they're more of a symptom or complication of an upper respiratory tract infection," Dr. Tunis said. "This infection, usually a cold, is contagious; the infection's complication - bronchitis or inflammation - isn't."

Chronic bronchitis is a different condition than acute bronchitis.

"While acute bronchitis typically starts with a cold and lasts one to three weeks, chronic bronchitis is a serious long-term disorder in which your airways are irritated over and over," Dr. Tunis said.

It typically lasts for a few months or longer and often comes back year after year. It's typically caused by cigarette smoking, but it can also be caused by other lung irritants like dust, chemicals, smoke from a fire or secondhand smoke.

"Although chronic bronchitis isn't contagious, it usually requires regular medical treatment," Dr. Tunis said.

Is pneumonia contagious?

Yes, unequivocally yes, pneumonia is contagious.

"Most cases of pneumonia are bacterial - if you come in contact with someone with bacterial pneumonia, it's possible for the bacteria to transfer to you," Dr. Tunis said.

Pneumonia is caused by an infection that causes the small air sacs of the lungs (called alveoli) to fill up with fluid or pus, which can cause a productive cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills and difficulty breathing. Bacterial pneumonia can occur on its own or develop after a cold or flu.

There are some strains of pneumonia that are viral, not bacterial. Those are also contagious. Some of the viruses that cause colds and the flu can cause pneumonia, which is the most common cause of the illness in children under the age of 5.

"In the case of bacterial pneumonia, it usually is no longer contagious once you stop coughing or when you no longer have a fever, which typically happens soon after starting antibiotics," Dr. Tunis said.
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