Original source of this page: http://mainelung.org/learn_with_us/lhi2/flu_intro.htm
American Lung Association of Maine
Lung Health Statistics for Maine
Introduction: Pneumonia and Influenza
Infection with the influenza (flu) virus may be severe and occasionally
fatal. Typical influenza illness includes fever and respiratory
symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, as well as
headache, muscle aches, and often extreme fatigue. Although most people
who get the flu recover completely within 1-2 weeks, some people may
develop serious medical complications such as pneumonia. For this
reason, an annual flu shot is recommended for those individuals as
highest risk, especially the elderly and people with chronic health
Pneumonia is a serious infection or inflammation of the lung. The air
sacs in the lungs fill with pus and other liquid, preventing oxygen
from reaching the blood. Because of this and the spreading infection
through the body, pneumonia can cause death.
Pneumonia is not a single disease. It can have over 30 different
causes. The five main causes of pneumonia are: bacteria, viruses,
mycoplasmas, other infectious agents (such as fungi), and various
chemicals. Half of all pneumonias are believed to be caused by viruses.
Bacterial pneumonia can attack anyone from infants through the very
old. Alcoholics, the debilitated, post operative patients, people with
respiratory diseases or viral infections, the elderly, and people who
have weakened immune systems are at greatest risk. Pneumococcal
pneumonia (Streptococcus pneumoniae) is the most common bacterial
pneumonia. A vaccine is available for pneumococcal pneumonia. A
one-time administration of the vaccine is generally recommended for
individuals over 65 years old and other at high risk
for infection. Vaccination is increasingly important for Streptococcus
pneumoniae given the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains
of this bacterium.
Until 1936, pneumonia was the leading cause of death in this country.
Use of antibiotics has lowered the death rates considerably over the
second half of the twentieth century. These diseases still remain a
leading cause of death, particularly among the elderly. More detailed
information is provided in Appendix AV.1.
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