Pneumonia Can Be Prevented - Vaccines Can Help
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that is usually caused by viruses or bacteria. It is the leading cause of death in children younger than 5 years of age worldwide. Pneumonia infections can often be prevented and can usually be treated.
Every 20 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies from pneumonia. Many of these deaths are preventable through vaccination and appropriate treatment.
What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages. Common signs of pneumonia can include cough, fever, and difficulty breathing. Certain people are more likely to become ill with pneumonia.
Chest x-ray of an adult patient with pneumonia.
- adults 65 years of age or older;
- children younger than 5 years of age;
- people who have underlying medical conditions (like diabetes or heart disease); and
- people who smoke cigarettes or have asthma.
Encourage friends and loved ones with certain health conditions, like diabetes and asthma, to get vaccinated against the flu and bacterial pneumonia.
Causes of Pneumonia
In the United States, common causes of viral pneumonia are influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and a common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). In children younger than 1 year of age, RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia.
Types of Pneumonia
When someone develops pneumonia in the community (not in a hospital), it's called community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). Pneumonia developed during or following a stay in a healthcare facility (like hospitals, long-term care facilities, and dialysis centers) is called healthcare-associated pneumonia (HCAP), which includes hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP).
Send an eCard. Encourage someone with asthma or diabetes to get vaccinated against the flu and bacterial pneumonia.
Reduce Your Risk
In the United States, there are several vaccines that prevent infection by bacteria or viruses that may cause pneumonia. These vaccines include
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib),
- pertussis (whooping cough),
- varicella (chickenpox),
- measles, and
- influenza (flu).
Following good hygiene practices can also help prevent respiratory infections. This includes washing your hands regularly, cleaning hard surfaces that are touched often (like doorknobs and countertops), and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or into your elbow or sleeve. You can also reduce your risk of getting pneumonia by limiting exposure to cigarette smoke and treating and preventing conditions like diabetes.
Globally each year, pneumonia kills more than 1 million children younger than 5 years of age.
National and Global Impact
In 2010, 1.1 million people in the United States were hospitalized with pneumonia, and about 50,000 people died from the disease.
Globally, pneumonia kills more than 1 million children younger than 5 years of age each year. This is greater than the number of deaths from any infectious disease, such as HIV infection, malaria or tuberculosis. Access to vaccines and treatment (like antibiotics and antivirals) can help prevent many pneumonia-related deaths. Pneumonia experts are also working to prevent pneumonia in developing countries by reducing indoor air pollution and encouraging good hygiene practices.
- Prevent Pneumonia (CDC Featured Podcasts) [00:04:50 minutes]
- This podcast explains what pneumonia is, its symptoms, and how to prevent it.
- Preventing Pneumonia (A Cup of Health with CDC) [00:03:31 minutes]
- In this podcast, a CDC expert discusses pneumonia in young children.
- Fighting a Bad Bug [00:04:04 minutes]
- A CDC expert discusses the effectiveness of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
- Respiratory Synctial Virus (RSV) [00:04:22 minutes]
- In this podcast, Dr. Eileen Schneider talks about a common cause of respiratory illness in young children.
- Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP)
- Healthcare-Associated Pneumonia (HAP)
- CDC and HICPAC Guidelines for Preventing Health-Care-Associated Pneumonia, 2003 [811 KB]
- ATS and IDSA Guidelines for Management of Adults with Hospital-Acquired, Ventilator-associated, and Healthcare-associated Pneumonia [360 KB]
- SHEA and IDSA Strategies to Prevent Ventilator-associated Pneumonia in Acute Care Hospitals, 2008
- Page last reviewed: February 18, 2014
- Page last updated: February 18, 2014
- Content source:
- National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs