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UK has highest number of pneumonia deaths in Europe

A general view of an X-Ray room (File picture)  (PA Archive)
A general view of an X-Ray room (File picture) (PA Archive)

More people die from pneumonia in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, according to new analysis.

A study by Asthma + Lung UK found that more than 25,000 people die from pneumonia every year in the UK on average.

The UK also has the third highest death rate from the infection in Europe, according to the charity’s analysis of figures from the International Respiratory Coalition. It puts Britain ahead of Russia, Germany, France and Uzbekistan.

There was a total of 21,175 deaths due to pneumonia in London between 2013-21, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed.

Pneumonia is a chest infection and one of the leading causes of emergency hospital admissions every winter. Symptoms include a cough, difficulty breathing, a high temperature and chest pain.

It is usually caused by a bacterial infection or a virus, such as flu. The condition causes tissue in one or both lungs to become inflamed.

Jardine Howlett, 39, a public relations manager from West Sussex, had pneumonia in 2017, which left her in a coma and hospitalised for months.

She described how she had gone to bed feeling unwell and woke up in the middle of the night gasping for breath.

“It was absolutely terrifying. I called 999 and there wasn't time to kiss or hug my boys’ goodbye as I was rushed to hospital with lung failure, coughing up blood in the back of the ambulance,” she said.

“Within minutes of arriving at hospital I was hooked up to antibiotics, transferred to the ICU and put in an induced coma. It turned out I had pneumonia, caused by a bacterial infection.”

Ms Howlett didn’t return home for nearly 3 months and experienced lingering side effects including breathlessness, fatigue and brain fog.

“I was lucky to return home at all. You think of pneumonia as something that only affects older people, but it can affect anyone, at any age and trigger rapid life-threatening complications,” she added.

Sarah Woolnough, CEO at Asthma + Lung UK, said: “It’s shocking the UK has the most deaths from pneumonia in Europe. The state of lung health in the UK isn’t good enough and we must do better to protect people from life-threatening chest infections, such as pneumonia.

“This winter is going to be hard on the nation’s lungs, with higher rates of respiratory infections and many people struggling to stay well with colder homes and fewer food choices.”

The charity has urged anyone who is eligible for a free pneumonia vaccine, which includes all adults aged over 65, to come forward for their jab this winter.

Ms Woolnough added: “As we wait for the new Prime Minister to take decisive action on tackling the cost-of-living crisis, the best thing you can do if you have a lung condition is make sure your vaccines are up to date including the flu jab, and if eligible the COVID-19 and pneumonia vaccine. It could save your life.”