Flu Swine Bacterial Viral Pneumonia

Although the flu usually only lasts about a week, the symptoms can be debilitating. However, in extreme cases, the flu has the potential to last even longer and cause more severe and prolonged symptoms than normal. In fact, complications from the flu can be fatal. One common complication of the flu is bacterial pneumonia.

Pneumonia is probably both the most common and serious flu complication. It can be caused by bacteria or viruses, but the majority of pneumonia cases are bacterial. In past flu seasons, most serious cases of flu and flu-related pneumonia occurred in those 65 years or older—in the case of the elderly, complications can be fatal. With the additional threat of the swine flu this season, the risk of contracting bacterial pneumonia along with the flu—or H1N1—is even more serious.

Bacterial Viral Pneumonia - Influenza

The Symptoms and Course of Bacterial Pneumonia

It’s important to be aware of typical flu symptoms as well as the symptoms of flu complications. Understanding what’s normal- and what’s not- about your flu symptoms will allow you to get the best medical care as soon as possible.

Bacterial pneumonia can increase the severity of respiratory symptoms, leading to increased cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath. The bacteria can infect your blood and lead to sepsis. In addition, the brain and spinal cord may be affected, leading to potentially fatal meningitis. Pneumonia treatment involves antibiotics and, in extreme cases, ventilator equipment. The seasonal flu or swine flu may have already weakened your immune system, and your body may not be capable of handling a further bacterial illness. This is why it’s particularly important to see a doctor if you’re having trouble breathing or abnormal chest pain.

As a result of the swine flu, or H1N1 influenza virus outbreak, more flu cases are occurring throughout the world. H1N1 and pneumonia is not a good combination. The increased number of combined flu cases has produced an increase in serious pneumococcal infections, which can lead to bacterial pneumonia.

What Can You Do to Prevent Bacterial Pneumonia?

Those older than 65 years of age should have an additional pneumococcal vaccine along with the flu shot. However, during the flu season of 2009, those younger than 65 years of age are much more vulnerable to H1N1 infection. This means that they are also more susceptible to bacterial pneumonia complications.

Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that H1N1 is linked to the recent rise in bacterial pneumonia cases in young and middle-aged adults. The CDC is now urging adults in high-risk groups to get vaccinations for the seasonal flu, H1N1 flu, and pneumococcus. For instance, people who have chronic diseases or a weak immune system, are classified as being in a high-risk group.

Common sense rules should be observed at all times to avoid contracting or spreading the flu. Hand-washing, using disinfectants, and covering your cough or sneeze are proper ways to limit the spread of infectious disease.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff. (2009). Prevention of pneumococcal infections secondary to seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza. Retrieved December 18, 2009, from the Centers for Disease Control Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/public/public_pneumococcal.htm.

Falco, M. (2009). H1N1 linked to rise in bacterial pneumonia cases. Retrieved December 17, 2009, from the CNN Health Web site: http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/11/26/h1n1.bacterial. pnuemonia/index.html.

Jones, D. (2009). Tips to prevent pneumonia secondary to an H1N1/seasonal flu infection. Retrieved December 18, 2009, from the Wellsphere Web site: http://www.wellsphere.com/health-education-article/tips-to-prevent-pneumonia-secondary-to-an-h1n1-seasonal-flu-infection/910963.

Smith, S. (2009). H1N1 virus attacks deep into the lungs. Retrieved December 17, 2009, from the CNN Web site: http://m.cnn.com/cnn/lt_ne/lt_ne/detail/412110.