Title: Pneumonia: Investigating the Rise of Lung Infections Among US Troops

Word Count:
607

Summary:
This article talks about the mysterious disease that has been plaguing US soldiers and causing deaths. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. Many different organisms can cause it, including bacteria, virus,and fungi. Symptoms and treatment are also tackled.

Keywords:
pneumonia, virus, infection, headache, bacterial infection

Article Body:
Between March 2003 and March 2004, US soldiers in Iraq have been hit at a higher than normal rate by a rare type of disease. A disease characterized by fever, respiratory failure, and an infiltration of the lungs. It has been diagnosed in 18 US soldiers. Two fatalities have been recorded thus far. The report was based on records provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association. While there are a number of medical theories about the cause of the illness, military doctors are pointing out to pneumonia as the culprit.

Pneumonia is the baffling disease that has continually plagued American soldiers. Moreover, mysterious pneumonia-like illnesses and breathing problems appear to be striking US troops in greater numbers than the military has identified in an investigation, which also include more deaths, according to survivors and their families.

Pneumonia is simply defined as an infection of the lungs. Many different organisms can cause it, including bacteria, virus, and fungi. Pneumonia can range from mild to severe, and can even be deadly. The severity depends on the type of organism causing pneumonia, as well as age and underlying health. It is a common illness that affects millions of people each year in the United States. Bacterial pneumonias tend to be the most serious and, in adults, the most common cause of pneumonia. The most common pneumonia-causing bacterium in adults is Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).

Most people who develop pneumonia initially have symptoms of a cold which are then followed by a high fever (sometimes as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit), shaking chills, and a cough with sputum production. The sputum is usually discolored and sometimes bloody. Patients may become short of breath. Chest pain may develop if the outer aspects of the lung are involved. This pain is usually sharp and worsens when taking a deep breath, known as pleuritic pain. Additional symptoms such as headache, excessive sweating and clammy skin, loss of appetite, excessive fatigue, confusion, (especially in older people) may also occur.

The viruses and bacteria that cause pneumonia are contagious and are usually found in fluid from the mouth or nose of an infected person. Illness can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes on a person, by sharing drinking glasses and eating utensils, and when a person touches the used tissues or handkerchiefs of an infected person.

There is a vaccine for pneumococcal pneumonia, a bacterial infection which accounts for up to a quarter of all pneumonias. Certain groups of people are considered to be at particularly high risk for the development of pneumonia, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend vaccination for these groups. Those recommended groups include:

People age 65 or older

People over age two years of age who have problems with their lungs, heart, liver, or kidneys

People over age two years of age with health problems like diabetes, sickle cell disease, alcoholism, or HIV/AIDS

Persons over two years of age who are taking any treatments that weaken the body’s immune system

Alaskan natives and some Native American populations

The vaccination is also recommended for persons who have had their spleens removed. Unlike vaccination with the ?flu shot,? the pneumococcal vaccine does not need to be given each year. One dosage of the vaccine is usually sufficient, but sometimes doctors recommend a second dose of the vaccine. People over age 65 who received the vaccine prior to age 65 are generally given a second dose along with people with certain serious medical conditions.

Preventing pneumonia is always better than treating it. The best preventive measures include washing hands frequently, not smoking, and wearing a mask when cleaning dusty or moldy areas.

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