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Pneumonia causes 1 million hospitalizations and about 50,000 deaths each year in the United States. It is an infection of one or both lungs. It is the most common complication of influenza (flu) in adults. Pneumonia can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages.

a digital representation of human lungs

Symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing

People at high risk for pneumonia include:

  • Adults age 65 years or older
  • Persons with certain chronic illnesses or conditions including asthma, diabetes or heart disease
  • Persons with a weakened immune system
  • Smokers
  • Children younger than 5 years of age

How it spreads

When a person with pneumonia sneezes, coughs, talks, or laughs, germs can spread into the air. These germs can spread to people and surfaces within 6 feet.

Germs can then spread to your hands if you touch anything that has germs on it. If you then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, before cleaning your hands, the germs can get into your system which could cause you to get pneumonia.

The spread of pneumonia can occur after contact with the germs in your community or it can happen during a stay in a healthcare facility.


Follow treatment as directed by your health care provider. Your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics. Always finish antibiotics.

Some people can be treated at home, but many people will need treatment in a hospital.


  • Get your flu shot every year. Pneumonia is the most common complication of flu.
  • Ask your health care provider if you need a pneumococcal vaccination. Pneumococcal bacteria can cause severe pneumonia.
  • Avoid contact with people who have a cold or flu.
  • Clean hands often.
  • Keep hands away from your face, eyes, and mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Stay home when sick and limit contact with other people.
  • Ask your healthcare provider for help to stop smoking.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke.

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