Pneumonia killed 5505 Black Americans in 2015: 4 Risk Factors & Causes

Pneumonia claimed the lives of 51,811 Americans in 2015 according to a National Vital Statistics Report1. Black Americans accounted for 5,505 of those deaths.  Black males make up almost  2/3 of the deaths (3,664 vs. 1,841). Jay Harold’s new post,”Pneumonia killed 5505 Black Americans in 2015: 4 Risk Factors & Causes,” will focus on this common and deadly disease.

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Jay Harold wrote an article in 2015, “Pneumonia: Prevention is Better than Treatment” that states in 2013; 61.3.% of adults 65 years and over has had a pneumococcal vaccination. In 2016,  the percent of adults aged 65 and over who had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination2 increased to 66.9%. Over 53,200 people died in 2013 of Pneumonia. Pneumonia was listed in over 1.1 million hospital inpatient discharges in 2010. The hospital stay averaged 5 days. Pneumonia is a major problem in the United States!

Pneumonia3 is a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection of one or both sides of the lungs that causes the air sacs, or alveoli, of the lungs to fill up with fluid or pus. Symptoms can be mild or severe and may include a cough with phlegm (a slimy substance), fever, chills, and trouble breathing. Many factors affect how serious pneumonia is, such as the type of germ causing the lung infection, your age, and your overall health. Pneumonia tends to be more serious for children under the age of five, adults over the age of 65, people with certain conditions such as heart failure, diabetes, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or people who have weak immune systems due to HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy (a treatment for cancer), or organ or blood and marrow stem cell transplant procedures.

Symptoms4 of pneumonia vary from mild to severe. See your doctor promptly if you:

  • Have a high fever
  • Have shaking chills
  • Have a cough with phlegm that doesn’t improve or gets worse
  • Develop shortness of breath with normal daily activities
  • Have chest pain when you breathe or cough
  • Feel suddenly worse after a cold or the flu

Pneumonia killed 5505 Black Americans in 2015: 4 Risk Factors & Causes

Your doctor will use your medical history, a physical exam, and lab tests to diagnose pneumonia. Treatment depends on what kind you have. If bacteria are the cause, antibiotics should help. If you have viral pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine to treat it.

Preventing pneumonia is always better than treating it. Vaccines are available to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia and the flu. Other preventive measures include washing your hands frequently and not smoking.

Causes of Pneumonia


Bacteria are the most common cause of pneumonia in adults. Many types of bacteria can cause bacterial pneumonia. Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus bacteria are the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in the United States.

If your pneumonia is caused by one of the following types of bacteria, it is called atypical pneumonia.

  • Legionella pneumophila. This type of pneumonia sometimes is called Legionnaire’s disease, and it has caused serious outbreaks. Outbreaks have been linked to exposure to cooling towers, whirlpool spas, and decorative fountains.
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae. This is a common type of pneumonia that usually affects people younger than 40 years old. People who live or work in crowded places like schools, homeless shelters, and prisons are at higher risk for this type of pneumonia. It’s usually mild and responds well to treatment with antibiotics. However, Mycoplasma pneumoniae can be very serious. It may be associated with a skin rash and hemolysis. This type of bacteria is a common cause of “walking pneumonia.”
  • Chlamydia pneumoniae. This type of pneumonia can occur all year and often is mild. The infection is most common in people 65 to 79 years old.

Bacterial pneumonia can occur on its own or develop after you’ve had a viral cold or the flu. Bacterial pneumonia often affects just one lobe, or area, of a lung. When this happens, the condition is called lobar pneumonia.Pneumonia killed 5505 Black Americans in 2015: 4 Risk Factors & Causes


Viruses that infect the respiratory tract may cause pneumonia. The influenza or flu virus is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in adults. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in children younger than one-year-old.  Other viruses can cause pneumonia such as the common cold virus known as rhinovirus, human parainfluenza virus (HPIV), and human metapneumovirus (HMPV).

Most cases of viral pneumonia are mild. They get better in about one to three weeks without treatment. Some cases are more serious and may require treatment in a hospital. If you have viral pneumonia, you run the risk of getting bacterial pneumonia.


Pneumocystis pneumonia is a serious fungal infection caused by Pneumocystis jirovecii. It occurs in people who have weak immune systems due to HIV/AIDS or the long-term use of medicines that suppress their immune systems, such as those used to treat cancer or as part of organ or blood and marrow stem cell transplant procedures.

Other fungal infections also can lead to pneumonia. The following are three fungi that occur in the soil in some parts of the United States and can cause some people to get pneumonia.

  • Coccidioidomycosis. This fungus is found in Southern California and the desert Southwest. It is the cause of valley fever.
  • Histoplasmosis. This fungus is found in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys.
  • Cryptococcus. This fungus is found throughout the United States in bird droppings and soil contaminated with bird droppings.

Many factors such as age, smoking, and other medical conditions can increase your chances of getting pneumonia and having more severe pneumonia.


Pneumonia can affect people of all ages. However, two age groups are at greater risk of developing pneumonia and having more severe pneumonia:

  • Infants who are two years old or younger because their immune systems are still developing during the first few years of life.
    Pneumonia killed 5505 Black Americans in 2015: 4 Risk Factors & Causes


  • People who are 65 years old or older because their immune systems begin to change as a normal part of aging.


Your risk for pneumonia may increase if you have been exposed to certain chemicals, pollutants, or toxic fumes.

Lifestyle habits

Smoking cigarettes, excessive use of alcohol, or being undernourished also increases your risk for pneumonia.

Other medical conditions

Other conditions and factors also increase your risk for pneumonia. Your risk also goes up if you:

Pneumonia and Influenza is the 12th leading cause of death5 for Black Americans in 2015 according to the CDC.  Jay Harold hopes this post, “Pneumonia killed 5505 Black Americans in 2015: 4 Risk Factors & Causes,” improved your knowledge about this common disease.

Enjoyed this post? Share it and read more here.  Jay Harold has put together a Resource page that you may find useful when trying to improve your health and wealth. Please take this advice from  Muhammad Ali and give back to others. “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”


  1.    (Page 47)
  2.     (Figure 5.1)
  5.  Table D (Page 12)

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