With the arrival of cold and flu season, it’s time to take extra precautions to stay healthy: washing your hands as often as possible, avoiding people who are visibly sick, and maybe even taking immune-boosting supplements to help ward off germs before they attack. But with celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and Savannah Guthrie revealing in recent months that they’ve been sidelined by pneumonia, you might be wondering just how at-risk you are for this respiratory infection, especially given that it affects around 900,000 Americans annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Pneumonia refers to serious inflammation of the lungs, specifically the air sacs within the lungs, explains Yeral Patel, M.D., a functional medicine physician practicing in Newport Beach, California. “When the air sacs become inflamed from a virus or bacteria, it can progress into pneumonia, which is when there is fluid or pus in the air sac of one or both lungs caused by a developing infection,” says Dr. Patel.
“Pneumonia is contracted through direct person-to-person contact much like a cold or flu, one way you can get pneumonia when mucus or saliva containing a specific infected bacteria—called streptococcus pneumoniae, becomes airborne by way of coughing, sneezing, contact with a contaminated area, or exposure to an area with many sick people”.
FYI: Streptoccocus infections are classified by several different groups, with Group A and Group B being the most common: Group A streptococcus can cause strep throat (as well toxic shock syndrome), while Group B strep can cause pneumonia, meningitis, and certain blood infections, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
But pneumonia can also develop as a result of a respiratory virus or bacterial infection. This means pneumonia can potentially be caused by the flu, the common cold virus, respiratory syncytial virus (which tends to mimic symptoms of the common cold), and adenovirus (also very similar to the common cold). The top bacterial causes include strep throat, haemophilus influenzae (ear infections), chlamydia pneumoniae (which can cause respiratory infections—so, no, it’s not the same as chlamydia the STD), and mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common cause of bronchitis/chest colds).
The most common signs and symptoms of pneumonia include a cough (usually with phlegm), fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, chest pain when you cough, nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite, explains Dr. Dass. You might also experience profuse sweating and rapid heart rate, adds Dr. Patel. “In more severe cases, patients can become confused and skin can appear bluish or pale due to poor oxygen status,” she explains.
Our celebrities are also not immune to these virals, here are the list of few who have suffered through the hardtimes.
10. Sidney Sheldon
Sidney Sheldon, who won awards in three careers – Broadway theater, movies and television – then at age 50 turned to writing best-selling novels about stalwart women who triumph in a hostile world of ruthless men, died at the age of 89.
Sheldon died after complications from pneumonia at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, said Warren Cowan, his publicist of more than 25 years. His wife, Alexandra, was by his side.
Sheldon’s books, with titles such as “Rage of Angels,” “The Other Side of Midnight,” “Master of the Game” and “If Tomorrow Comes,” provided his greatest fame.