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Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that is caused by bacteria, viruses,

fungi, or parasites. It is characterized primarily by inflammation of the

alveoli in the lungs or by alveoli that are filled with fluid (alveoli are
microscopic sacs in the lungs that absorb oxygen).
At times a very serious condition, pneumonia can make a person very sick
or even cause death. Although the disease can occur in young and healthy
people, it is most dangerous for older adults, babies, and people with other
diseases or impaired immune systems.
In the United States, more than 3 million people develop pneumonia each
year, and about 17% of these receive treatment in a hospital. Most people
with pneumonia recover, but about 5% will succumb to the condition.

Fast facts on pneumonia

Here are some key points about pneumonia. More detail and supporting
information is in the main article.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe

illness in people of all ages.

It is the leading cause of death in children younger than 5 years of age


Approximately 50% of pneumonia cases are believed to be caused by

viruses and tend to result in less severe illness than bacteria-caused

Pneumonia infections can often be prevented with vaccines and can

usually be treated with antibiotics, antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu) or specific

drug therapies.

Around 59.7% of adults 65 years and over have ever received the
pneumonia vaccination.

Pneumonia and influenza together are ranked as the eighth leading cause

of death in the US.

It is estimated that 175,000 cases of pneumococcal pneumonia occur each

year, with a fatality rate of 5-7%, or even much higher among the elderly.

Around 53,282 people die per year in the US from pneumonia.

People considered at high risk for pneumonia include the elderly (over 65
years of age), the very young and those with underlying health problems.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) is recommended for

anyone over 65 years of age and all those over 2 years of age who
have asthma or long-term health problems.

What causes pneumonia?

Bacteria and viruses are the primary causes of pneumonia. When a person
breathes pneumonia-causing germs into his lungs and his body's immune
system cannot otherwise prevent entry, the organisms settle in small air
sacs called alveoli and continue multiplying. As the body sends white blood
cells to attack the infection, the sacs become filed with fluid and pus causing pneumonia.
Pneumonia has bacterial, viral, fungal, and other primary causes. A
summary is provided below.

Bacterial pneumonia

Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial

pneumonia. People who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD) oralcoholism most often get pneumonia from Klebsiella
pneumoniae and Hemophilus influenzae. Atypical pneumonia, a type of
pneumonia that typically occurs during the summer and fall months, is
caused by the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
People who have Legionnaire's disease caused by the
bacterium Legionella pneumoniae (often found in contaminated water
supplies and air conditioners) may also develop pneumonia as part of the
overall infection. Another type of bacteria responsible for pneumonia is
called Chlamydia pneumoniae. Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia is a form
of pneumonia that usually affects both lungs and is found in patients with
weakened or compromised immune systems from such conditions
as cancer and HIV/AIDS and those treated with TNF (tumor necrosis
factor) for rheumatoid arthritis.

Viral pneumonia
Viral pneumonias are pneumonias that do not typically respond to antibiotic
treatment (in contrast to bacterial pneumonias). Adenoviruses, rhinovirus,
influenza virus (flu),respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and parainfluenza
virus are all potential causes of viral pneumonia.

Fungal pneumonia
Histoplasmosis, coccidiomycosis, blastomycosis, aspergillosis, and
cryptococcosis are fungal infections that can lead to fungal pneumonia.
These types of pneumonias are relatively infrequent in the United States.

Nosocomial and others

Organisms that have been exposed to strong antibiotics and have
developed resistance are called nosocomial organisms. If they enter the
lungs, a person may develop nosocomial pneumonia. Resistant bacteria
are often found in nursing homes and hospitals. An example is MRSA, or
methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, which can cause skin infections as well
as pneumonia. Similarly, outbreaks of the H5N1 influenza (bird flu) virus
and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) have resulted in serious
pneumonia infections. Anthrax, plague, and tularemia also may cause
pneumonia, but their occurrences are rare.

Who gets pneumonia?

Some people are more likely than others to develop pneumonia. Individuals
at higher risk include those who:

People who are older than 65 and those that have recently recovered from a cold or flu have
an increased risk of developing pneumonia.


Abuse alcohol.

Have other medical conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary

disease (COPD),emphysema, asthma, or HIV/AIDS.

Are younger than 1 year of age or older than 65.

Have a weakened or impaired immune system.

Take medicines for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Have recently recovered from a cold or influenza infection.

Are malnourished.

Have been recently hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

Have been exposed to certain chemicals or pollutants.

Are Native Alaskan or certain Native American ethnicity.

Have any increased risk of breathing mucus or saliva from the nose or
mouth, liquids, or food from the stomach into the lungs.