Pneumonia–a Communicable Disease


Pneumonia is a type of a respiratory condition characterized by lung infection, which can be caused by fungi, bacteria or viruses (Cunha, 2010). The most common symptoms associated with the disease include breathing difficulties, fever, experiencing chest pains and cough. In the United States, it has been estimated that 50,000 deaths are caused by pneumonia annually. Despite the fact that a person of any age can get sick with pneumonia, the disease is more prevalent among the elderly (Griffin, Zhu, Moore, Whitney, & Grijalva, 2013). Current paper explores the history of the disease, statistics on its prevalence, current prevention efforts, future goals for prevention and the role of nurses in education and prevention of pneumonia.

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History of Disease

Throughout the history of mankind, pneumonia has been a prevalent infection. The symptoms of pneumonia were outlined by the Hippocratic writers during 460BC-370 BC. The clinical description of pneumonia at that time was somewhat similar to the description of the disease outlined in contemporary textbooks. A pneumonia-related death was first documented in 1875 by Edwin Klebs (Walker, et al., 2013). Earlier work undertaken by Albert Franker during 1884 and Carl Friedlander during 1884 had discovered the two main bacteria that caused pneumonia, which included Klebsiella pneumonia and Streptococcus pneumonia. The early work of Friedlander led to the introduction of the Gram stain, which is a basic lab test that is still utilized in identifying and categorizing bacteria. A description of the procedure by Christian Gram in 1884 played a role in differentiating the two bacteria and pointed out that pneumonia may be caused by multiple microorganisms. Sir William Osler, who is perceived to be the pioneer of modern medicine, acknowledged the disability and death attributed to pneumonia owing to the fact that it had surpassed tuberculosis as one of the dominant causes of death during his time. Various developments in the course of the early 20th century helped improve the outcome for people having pneumonia (Griffin, Zhu, Moore, Whitney, & Grijalva, 2013). The arrival of contemporary surgical techniques, penicillin among other antibiotics and intensive care during the 20th century played a pivotal role in reducing the pneumonia-related mortality. Infants’ vaccination against Haemophilus Influenzae type B, which commenced in 1988, also resulted in a significant decline in the prevalence of pneumonia (Griffin, Zhu, Moore, Whitney, & Grijalva, 2013).

Global/National/State/County Statistics

Globally, it has been estimated that 450 million people (7% of the world population) suffer pneumonia and it leads to about 4 million deaths annually, especially in developing nations. In the US, pneumonia affects about 5.6 million people annually and is ranked 6th in terms of the prevalent causes of death. In addition, pneumonia was stated to be the 2nd most common reason for being hospitalized, accounting for about 1.1 million hospitalizations in the US. The state of Kentucky has the highest pneumonia-related death cases (21.02 deaths per 100,000), whereas the Vermont state has the lowest cases of death (7.95 deaths per 100,000). On average, the pneumonia-related death rate in the US is 21.02 deaths per 100,000 (Griffin, Zhu, Moore, Whitney, & Grijalva, 2013).

Current Prevention Efforts

Present prevention efforts for pneumonia include the use of vaccination, suitable treatment of other illnesses and environmental measures. Vaccination has been established to prevent particular types of pneumonias in both adults and children. For instance, influenza vaccines have been found to be moderately effective in preventing influenza A and B (Griffin, Zhu, Moore, Whitney, & Grijalva, 2013). Immunization of health workers also lessens the risk of spreading viral pneumonia to their patients (Cunha, 2010). During instances of influenza outbreaks, medicines like rimantadine and amantadine can help curb pneumonia. In addition, there is evidence indicating that vaccinations against Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenza can help in prevention of pneumonia (Walker, et al., 2013). Other pneumonia prevention measures include lessening air pollution indoors, smoking cessation and hand hygiene. Suitable treatment for underlying diseases such as malnutrition, diabetes and HIV/AIDS can also reduce the risk of contracting pneumonia (Walker, et al., 2013).

Future Goals for Prevention

There are a number of areas that future prevention of pneumonia has focused on. The first future goal for pneumonia prevention is to speed the development of novel vaccines that guarantee long-term health. Research is underway to come up with new pneumococcal vaccines that are based on proteins that are common to all types of pneumococcus. The second area of focus for future pneumonia prevention is ventilator-associated pneumonia, which has been and is still a major issue in hospital settings. As a result, research is underway to develop preventive measures against ventilator-associated pneumonia. Another future goal for pneumonia prevention focuses on the development of a global action plan for preventing pneumonia, especially in developing countries. Childhood pneumonia is also being considered a global health priority, which implies that prevention efforts are emphasizing on reducing the prevalence of pneumonia and associated mortality among children (Griffin, Zhu, Moore, Whitney, & Grijalva, 2013).

Nurses Role in Education and Prevention

Nurses and other healthcare workers play a significant role in education and prevention of pneumonia. In this regard, nurses can play a pivotal role in patients’ education taking into account the causes of pneumonia and how the disease can be prevented. Empirical research has established that patients’ education helps in lessening hospitalizations, as well as improving the quality of life for the patient. Similar successes can be noted for the case of pneumonia when nurses take the initiative to educate patients on facts about pneumonia. Nurses also play a role in prevention of pneumonia through patient assessment, which is crucial in the detection of pneumonia. According to Griffin, Zhu, Moore, Whitney, & Grijalva (2013), strong assessment skills are needed for nurses to be able to recognize changes in the respiratory status of patients. In addition, hospital settings, nurses have a responsibility of preventing patients from acquiring pneumonia, especially the ventilator-associated pneumonia. As a result, the immunization of nurses and other healthcare workers has been identified as a crucial step towards the prevention of pneumonia.


Pneumonia is one of the major causes of death globally and in the United States, causing about 50,000 deaths annually in the US alone. Current efforts to prevent pneumonia have focused on the use of vaccination, suitable treatment of other ailments and a number of environmental measures such as lessening indoors air pollution, hand hygiene and smoking cessation among others. The future goals for disease prevention have focused on the development of new vaccines that can guarantee long-term health, prevention of ventilator-associated pneumonia and development of a global action plan to curb childhood pneumonia.

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