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Pneumonia Can Be Prevented - Vaccines Can Help

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?

Photo: Chest x-ray of patient with pneumonia

Chest x-ray of an adult patient with 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.

This includes

  • 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

eCard: Pneumonia can impact anyone, especially during flu season.

Send an eCard. Encourage someone with asthma or diabetes to get vaccinated against the flu and bacterial 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).

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

  • pneumococcal,
  • 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.

National and Global Impact

Photo: Three children.

Globally each year, pneumonia kills more than 1 million children younger than 5 years of age.

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.

More Information

Graphics: World Pneumonia Day. Fight Pneumonia. Save a child. November 12.

World Pneumonia Day is November 12th

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  • Page last reviewed: February 18, 2014
  • Page last updated: February 18, 2014
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