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  • LCOA

Managing Chlamydia Pneumoniae

By Dr. Fred A. Wagshul, M.D. Medical Director at the Lung Center of America

Chlamydia pneumoniae is a type of small, airborne bacteria that causes respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia (lung infection). The bacteria cause illness by damaging the lining of the respiratory tract including the throat, bronchial tube, sinuses and lungs. Some people may become infected and have mild or no symptoms.

People spread C. pneumoniae by coughing or sneezing, which creates small respiratory droplets that contain the bacteria. Other people then breathe in the bacteria. People can also get sick if they touch something with droplets from a sick person on it and then touch their mouth or nose.

Most people who spend a short amount of time with someone who has C. pneumoniae infection usually do not become ill. However, it is common for the bacteria to spread between people who live together. C. pneumoniae infections usually have long incubation periods (the time between breathing in the bacteria and developing symptoms). Symptoms usually begin 3 to 4 weeks after exposure.

Common Symptoms Include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Fatigue (feeling tired)

  • Low-grade fever

  • Hoarseness or loss of voice

  • Sore throat

  • Slowly worsening cough that can last for weeks or months

  • Headache

Fast Facts Per Center for Disease Control (CDC)

  • Chlamydia pneumoniae are a type of bacteria that can infect the upper and lower respiratory tracts.

  • C. pneumoniae can spread when infected people cough or sneeze while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the bacteria.

  • Most people with C. pneumoniae infections have mild illness or do not have symptoms at all.

  • Although some people can develop a serious lung infection (pneumonia), particularly older adults.

  • Symptoms of a C. pneumoniae infection usually start gradually. It can take someone 3 to 4 weeks to get sick after breathing in the bacteria.

  • After gradual onset, symptoms due to C. pneumoniae infection may continue for several weeks or months even with appropriate antibiotic treatment.

  • Since C. pneumoniae infection is likely underdiagnosed, the actual number of cases each year is unknown.

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