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Pneumonia is infection of lung parenchymal tissue. This can be caused by any sort of microorganism ranging from bacteria to viruses to fungi. Doctors classify pneumonias into community acquired pneumonia (both from typical and atypical organisms), nosocomial pneumonia, immune compromised pneumonia, chronic pneumonia and aspiration pneumonia.

Before the advent of antibiotics, pneumonia was often fatal, but most community-acquired pneumonias are readily treatable today. Many patients with pneumonia are treated by their own general practitioner and never admitted to hospital. This is often called walking pneumonia because although they can be very ill the patients are still mobile. Some people with walking pneumonia never realise they are ill at all, but merely feel 'run down' and exhausted.

The most common cause of community-acquired pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as Pneumococcus.

Pneumonia is a serious illness, especially among the elderly and the immuno-compromised and is often a cause of death for these groups. AIDS patients frequently contract pneumocystis pneumonia, an otherwise rare form of the disease. Persons with cystic fibrosis are also at very high risk of pneumonia because thick, sticky mucus is constantly accumulating in the lungs, trapping bacteria and leading to infection.

Symptoms of pneumonia

  • Cough with greenish or yellow mucus
  • Fever with shaking chills
  • Sharp or stabbing chest pain, worsened by deep breaths or coughs
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Shortness of breath

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

  • Bloody mucus
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating and clammy skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive fatigue

On February 27th 2003, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a new form of atypical pneumonia, was first documented by Dr. Carlo Urbani. This worried doctors who feared that it may become a pandemic, but by July it appeared to be contained.

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