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 worldwide. However, these infections can often be prevented with vaccines and can usually be treated with antibiotics, antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu), or specific drug therapies. Common signs of pneumonia include cough, fever, and difficulty breathing. You are more likely to become ill with pneumonia if you smoke or have underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. However, you can lower your chances by taking good care of your medical problems, and quitting smoking. You can also help prevent pneumonia and other respiratory infections by following good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
Common Causes of Pneumonia
Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. 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). Pneumonia can also be caused as a result of being on a ventilator. This is known as ventilator-associated pneumonia.
Learn more below about the infections that commonly cause pneumonia.
Human Parainfluenza Viruses (HPIVs) IllnessHPIVs commonly cause upper and lower respiratory illnesses in infants and young children…
Influenza (Flu)The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that can cause mild to severe illness…
Legionnaires’ DiseaseLegionella pneumophila causes more than 90% of outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia…
Mycoplasma pneumoniae InfectionThis generally mild illness, caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, is a common cause of "walking pneumonia"…
Pneumococcal DiseasePneumococcal disease is caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium, which is also called pneumococcus…
Pneumocystis PneumoniaPneumocystis pneumonia is a serious illness in people with weakened immune systems that is caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii…
RSV InfectionRSV usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but it can cause serious illness in infants and older adults…
Vaccines Can Help Prevent Pneumonia
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).
Management and Prevention Guidelines
- IDSA and ATS Consensus Guidelines on the Management of Community-Acquired Pneumonia in Adults [46 pages]
- PIDS and IDSA Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Management of Community-Acquired Pneumonia in Infants and Children Older Than 3 Months of Age [52 pages]
- CDC and HICPAC Guidelines for Preventing Health-Care-Associated Pneumonia, 2003 [179 pages]
- ATS and IDSA Guidelines for the Management of Adults with Hospital-acquired, Ventilator-associated, and Healthcare-associated Pneumonia [29 pages]
- SHEA and IDSA Strategies to Prevent Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia in Acute Care Hospitals, 2008
Etiology of Pneumonia in the Community (EPIC) Study
The Etiology of Pneumonia in the Community (EPIC) study conducted by CDC and three U.S. children’s hospitals and five U.S. adult medical centers estimated the burden of community-acquired pneumonia hospitalizations among U.S. children and adults from January 2010 – June 2012.
- Page last reviewed: February 7, 2014
- Page last updated: February 25, 2015
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