What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. Many different germs can cause pneumonia, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When you breathe in these germs, they can settle in the air sacs (alveoli) of your lungs. Deep in your lungs, the germs may grow and overcome your body’s normal defenses.

After they become infected, the air sacs then fill with pus and mucus. This swelling (inflammation) of the air sacs makes them less stretchy and keeps oxygen from properly reaching your blood stream.

As you work harder to breathe and give your body oxygen, you can feel short of breath. The swelling also causes many of the other symptoms of pneumonia like cough, fever, and chest pain.

There are many different kinds of pneumonia — some are milder and some are very serious. Pneumonia can even be life-threatening. It’s a leading cause of death and hospitalization in seniors and in people with long-term (chronic) diseases. The good news is that there are many things you can do to lower your risk of getting pneumonia.

The pneumococcal vaccine prevents the most common types of bacterial pneumonia and other serious infections.

The following people are at high risk and can receive the pneumococcal vaccine at no cost:

  • Individuals 65 years and over;
  • Individuals 2 years to 64 years with:
    • Chronic heart, liver or kidney disease
    • Chronic lung disease (except asthma)
    • Alcoholism
    • Diabetes
    • Chronic cerebral spinal leak
    • Spleen has been removed or does not work well
    • Sickle cell disease
    • HIV infection
    • Other immune illnesses or conditions
    • Malignancies
    • People living in homeless / chronic disadvantaged situations
    • Living in Continuing Care or other long term care facility