Influenza, Pneumonia and Other Lung Health Issues | American Lung Association

Influenza, Pneumonia and Other Lung Health Issues

Pneumonia and influenza are common lung infections and together continue to be among the top ten leading causes of death in the U.S. Almost 55,000 Americans die each year from influenza and pneumonia.

Influenza is a worldwide problem and a looming threat because of the virus’ uncanny ability to mutate, making previous immunizations ineffective, and because of its potential to transform into a highly contagious deadly organism capable of creating a devastating pandemic. The best way to prevent this serious lung disease is to get the flu vaccine each year. Health officials recommend that everyone six months of age and older receive an influenza vaccination each and every year.

Pneumonia is a common lung infection caused by bacteria, a virus or fungi. Pneumonia and its symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Most healthy people recover from pneumonia in one to three weeks, but the disease can be life threatening. The good news is that pneumonia can be prevented by getting an annual flu shot (as flu often leads to pneumonia), frequently washing your hands, and for the elderly and people at high risk, getting a vaccine for pneumococcal pneumonia.

Awards & Grants

The American Lung Association is funding a number of studies on influenza. One is looking at whether proteins called cytokines may help boost the immune response to influenza. Another is investigating whether probiotics can help prevent and treat infant influenza. A third is looking at how immune cells called regulatory T cells form distinct subsets in the lung during influenza infection and how these subsets may play roles in modifying parts of the immune response. We are also funding research that is examining how children’s lungs are injured with infection with influenza A virus and whether certain drugs may be able to reduce the severity of this infection.

We are supporting pneumonia research that aims to better understand the immune responses generated against the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes serious lung infections. The findings could lead to better treatments and vaccines against pathogens that enter through the lungs.

Most major lung diseases are, to an important degree, preventable. The American Lung Association is working to save lives by reducing exposure to risk factors for lung disease.

An example of a major risk factor for lung disease is air pollution. One project we are funding is looking at the impact of climate change on lung disease, using a large dataset to study long-term exposures to both air pollution and temperature and their interactive effects on mortality. We are also supporting research on indoor air pollution and how it affects lung health in rural Africa.


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