Relationship between Influenza and Pneumonia

What Is the Connection between Influenza and Pneumonia?

Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious viral infection that is one of the most severe illnesses of the winter season. Influenza is spread easily from person to person, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Pneumonia is a serious infection or inflammation of the lungs. The air sacs fill with pus and other liquid, blocking oxygen from reaching the bloodstream. If there is too little oxygen in the blood, the body's cells cannot work properly, which can lead to death.

Influenza is a common cause of pneumonia, especially among younger children, the elderly, pregnant women, or those with certain chronic health conditions or who live in a nursing home. Many cases of flu never lead to pneumonia, but those that do tend to be more severe and deadly. Pneumonia can be caused by many different things, but influenza is one of the most common and widespread causes. In fact, flu and pneumonia were the ninth leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, and the seventh among those 65 years of age and older.

Both influenza and some types of pneumonia can be prevented with vaccinations. As flu strains change each year, it is necessary to get a flu vaccination each season to make sure you are protected against the most current strains. Pneumonia vaccinations are usually only necessary once, although a booster vaccination may be recommended for some individuals. Ask your healthcare provider if you are up to date on your vaccinations and to determine if any additional vaccinations are right for you.