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Pneumonia Caused By…Guinea Pigs?


With the school year back in full swing, there is always a growing concern among parents and children alike about getting sick. From colds to flu, there is no shortage of ways for both you and your child to get sick, however, among them all, few are more dreaded than pneumonia.

Pneumonia is an infection of one or both lungs that is caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus, although, bacteria is the most common type in adults. And while most people are concerned about contracting this sickness from schoolmates or work colleagues, there seems to be a new risk out there. One that you probably didn’t think of anyone, that in all fairness, is just downright adorable.

Bart P. Ramakers, MD, Ph.D., an intensivist at Bernhoven hospital in Uden, Netherlands, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine that he encounter patients that were hospitalized with respiratory failure caused by communal pneumonia. The culprit, an unlikely one, Chlamydia caviae, a gram-negative bacterium, cause the sickness after the patient came in contact with a guinea pig.

While we are not suggesting that you now have to stay away from pet stores or can’t babysit the classroom pet, this should serve as a reminder about how potentially dangerous seemingly non-dangerous things can be. So while the guinea pig is admittedly a rather rare occurrence, there are certain steps you can take to help ensure that you are happy and healthy going into the winter months.

First off, if you are a smoker, you should really think about quitting. Aside from the string of ailments, many of which are deadly, that are associated with smoking, it also exponentially increases your risk of contracting pneumonia.

Secondly, it is always wise to be proactive and avoid people who are sick, and not just with pneumonia. In order to increase your odds of a healthy winter season, you are going to want to whenever possible avoid people with the cold, flu, and other respiratory tract infections. Furthermore, you should always be diligent when it comes to washing your hands, especially after exposure to children, the elderly or any high traffic area.

Lastly, while this one is sometimes not the most well-received advice, we would strongly recommend getting a vaccine. It is a simple, safe, and invaluable procedure that can save you months of pain and discomfort, and potentially, your life.