World Pneumonia Day will be observed on November 12, 2022 and was established to raise awareness of the illness and the importance of preventing it and treating it. Every 13 seconds someone dies from pneumonia in the world. In 2019 alone, pneumonia claimed the lives of 2.5 million people, over half of which were children. While pneumonia is easily preventable and treatable, it is one of the leading killers of children under five, older adults over 65 and those with a weak immune system. In fact, if you are 65 or older, your risk of being hospitalized after getting pneumococcal pneumonia is 13 times greater than younger adults aged 18 to 49. Additionally, certain chronic health conditions - like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - are especially at risk for infectious disease.
Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the airways of one or both lungs (which are called alveoli). The air sacs fill with liquid or pus that cause coughing, breathing difficulties, fever and/or chills. Bacteria, fungi and viruses are the main causes of pneumonia which settle in the air sacs when inhaled. Of the viruses that cause pneumonia, influenza viruses (types A, B, C and D) belonging to the family Orthomyxoviridae are the most common. The condition can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. Pneumonia is contagious and can be passed through droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread by touching shared objects.
Vaccines are the best form of prevention of severe diseases like pneumococcal, streptococcal, flu, measles and rubella. Regular steps like frequent handwashing, maintaining hygiene, reducing indoor air pollution and avoiding exposure to second hand smoke all help to reduce the risk of acquiring pneumonia.
Diagnosis of this condition will begin with a medical history review and a detailed physical exam, including listening to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal bubbling or crackling sounds that suggest pneumonia. Diagnostic screening tests like Chest X-ray, CT scan, Pulse Oximetry, sputum test and Pleural fluid culture will be performed to determine the extent and location of the infection. In addition, blood tests are also performed to confirm an infection and identify the type of organisms causing the infection.
Symptoms can have an abrupt onset. It is important that you be seen and evaluated by a health care provider if you are experiencing fever, dry cough lasting longer than a week, chills, shortness of breath, chest pain and/or decreased appetite. Delayed treatment can lead to complications. If diagnosed early and treated timely (with possible antibiotics and oxygen if needed) to prevent complications, the prognosis for a speedy recovery is greatly increased.
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