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 problems.

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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