An estimated 3 million people contract pneumonia every year. People considered at high risk for pneumonia include the elderly (over 65 years of age), young children whose immune systems are not yet fully developed, and those with underlying health problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Patients with diseases that impair the immune system, such as AIDS, those undergoing cancer therapy or organ transplantation, or patients with other chronic illnesses are particularly vulnerable.
Pneumonia is a serious infection of the lungs. The lungs’ air sacs become inflamed and fill with pus and other liquid, making it difficult for oxygen to reach the blood through them. If there is too little oxygen in the blood, then the body’s cells cannot work properly. Pneumonia can cause oxygen deprivation and spread infection through the body, which may lead to death.
One of the best ways to prevent pneumonia is to vaccinate against it. In addition, an annual flu shot can provide protection due to the close relationship between influenza and pneumonia.