Pneumonia

Young girl with fever

Globally, pneumonia (an infection of the lungs) kills more children younger than 5 years old each year than any other infectious disease, such as HIV infection, malaria, or tuberculosis.

In the United States, 1.5 million people were diagnosed with pneumonia in an emergency department during 2018. Unfortunately, more than 40,000 people died from the disease that year in the United States. Most of the people affected by pneumonia in the United States are adults.

Vaccines and appropriate treatment (like antibiotics and antivirals) could prevent many of these deaths—globally and in the United States.

Quiz

Key Facts

  • Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages.
  • Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can all cause pneumonia.
  • Common signs of pneumonia can include cough, fever, and trouble breathing.
  • Bacteria and viruses that commonly cause pneumonia in the community are different from those in the healthcare settings.
  • A common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).

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Man sneezing into sleeve
Pneumonia Prevention

Avoid people who are sick. If you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible to keep from getting them sick. Wash your hands regularly. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow or sleeve. Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched a lot. Limit contact with cigarette smoke or quit smoking. Take good care of medical conditions (like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease).

Grandfather kissing grandson
Who Can Get Pneumonia

Certain people are more likely to become ill with pneumonia: adults 65 years or older; children younger than 5 years old; people who have ongoing medical conditions (like asthma, diabetes or heart disease); and people who smoke cigarettes. Encourage friends and loved ones to make sure they are up to date with their vaccines.

Lab technician
Causes of Pneumonia

Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can all cause pneumonia. In the United States, common causes of viral pneumonia are influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). A common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). However, clinicians are not always able to find out which germ caused someone to get sick with pneumonia.

Woman placing wash cloth on head
Types of Pneumonia

Community-acquired pneumonia is when someone develops pneumonia in the community (not in a hospital). Healthcare-associated pneumonia is when someone develops pneumonia during or following a stay in a healthcare facility. Healthcare facilities include hospitals, long-term care facilities, and dialysis centers.

Prevention Tips

  • Get vaccinated. Vaccines can help prevent infection by some of the bacteria and viruses that can cause pneumonia.
  • Avoid people who are sick. If you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible to keep from getting them sick.
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched a lot.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow or sleeve.
  • Limit contact with cigarette smoke or quit smoking.
  • Manage and prevent conditions like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease.
Page last reviewed: October 8, 2021