Hospitals see spike in flu-related pneumonia cases

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - With experts saying this year's flu season is one of the worst on record, one of the biggest worries medical officials have is that the flu is also creating an abundance of pneumonia, too.

The symptoms of flu and pneumonia are very similar and it's sometimes hard for the average person to tell them apart without a medical diagnosis.

But, don't ignore those symptoms of fever, chills, dehydration, fatigue; irregular breathing, coughing or wheezing because doctors say flu-related pneumonia are serious - and can kill you.

The Centers For Disease Control has been tracking the pneumonia situation and say 10 percent of all deaths last week were caused by flu or pneumonia.

The flu can quickly lead to pneumonia.

Here's how:

  • The virus can infect the lungs causing viral pneumonia.
  • The flu can damage the respiratory tract making the it easier for bacteria to infect the lungs causing bacterial pneumonia.
  • Once your lungs are compromised, pneumonia can come on quickly and you need to be alert.

If you're recovering from the flu and then develop a high fever and your condition starts getting worse again, doctors say that's a danger sign.

Dr. Lolita McDavid of Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital told CBS news, "If you think you're getting better and then it's not getting better then you really need to seek medical attention because it may have now gone into your lungs and you may now have pneumonia."

Hospitals are seeing a big spike in flu-related pneumonia cases this year along with regular flu cases and the CDC is worried.

"In 2014-15, 710,000 were hospitalized from flu," said acting CDC director Dr. Anne Schuchat. "If things continue like they are right now, we will have even more hospitalizations this year."

There are many groups at-risk groups for flu-related pneumonia including children under 5, adults over 65 and those with asthma.

Doctors say those in at risk groups ought to consider getting a pneumonia vaccine as well as the flu shot.

There are a couple of different vaccines available to fight pneumonia and you need to ask your doctor which, if any, are best for you.

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