Hillary Clinton’s diagnosis of pneumonia is a common one and she is very likely to fully recover, health experts say. But her illness demonstrates shows that this ailment is more serious than many people think and that they need to follow their doctor’s instructions.
“Pneumonia is not an innocuous disease. What happened to Hillary Clinton shows that you can't say, 'I'll push myself now and worry about my health later because it will catch up with you,' " Dr. Marc Leavey tells Newsmax Health.
Following Clinton’s wobbly departure from a 9/11 memorial event on Sunday, Clinton’s physician disclosed that the presidential candidate had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday.
She has been on antibiotics and was instructed to lighten her schedule. But instead Clinton had appeared at campaign events during the weekend.
Pneumonia, which is sometimes also called “walking pneumonia,” is an infection of the lungs that can range from mild to severe. It is most serious in children and people who are over the age of 65 or who have underlying medical conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Each year in the United States, about one million people have to seek care in a hospital due to pneumonia, and more than 50,000 people die from the disease. Most of the people affected by pneumonia in the United States are adults, the CDC says.
"Clinton is 68 years old and pneumonia is very common in this age group,” says Leavey, an internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
A variety of pathogens can cause pneumonia: bacteria, viruses, even fungi.
When germs reach the lungs, the immune system responds by sending cells to attack them. Those cells can cause air sacs in the lungs, known as alveoli, to become inflamed or fill with fluid and pus, causing the symptoms of pneumonia.
The illness is spread like colds and the flu, and being in crowds and shaking hands make people susceptible.
“Being on the campaign trail means you would be doing a lot of both these things,” notes Leavey.
If the illness is bacterial in nature, it is treated with antibiotics. If a virus is causing the ailment, drinking plenty of fluids and rest can often take care of it – along with time.
While treatment for pneumonia can act quickly, the related fatigue can last for a month or more, Leavey notes.
By following her doctor’s instructions, Clinton should fully recovery, adds Leavey.
Preventing pneumonia is also very important for people age 65 and over, and they can do this by getting vaccinated, notes Leavey.
There are currently two types of pneumococcal vaccines: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23).
“People in this age group should get both pneumonia vaccines as well as an annual flu vaccine,” he notes.
The CDC also recommends these steps to prevent pneumonia:
- Washing your hands regularly.
- Cleaning surfaces that are touched a lot.
- Coughing or sneezing into a tissue.
- Limiting contact with cigarette smoke.
- Treating and preventing underlying medical conditions.
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