Colds and flu

22 December 2014

Muhammad Ali set to recover from pneumonia

Boxing great Muhammad Ali will likely have a short stay in hospital after being admitted with a case of pneumonia, which can be rapidly fatal if not treated early.


New York - Three-time heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali is in a stable condition in hospital with pneumonia, which is an acute infection of the lung tissue.

The 72-year-old boxing great was admitted to a hospital in an undisclosed location on Saturday morning, spokesperson Bob Gunnell said.

He added that Ali was being treated by a team of doctors and remains in a stable condition.

"Because the pneumonia was caught early, his prognosis is good with a short hospital stay expected," said Gunnell.

He declined to give any further details of the boxer's condition and said Ali's family was asking for privacy.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lower respiratory tract affecting the lungs partly or as a whole. It presents with productive cough, fever and chest pain and can be rapidly fatal if not treated early.

Several different organisms can cause pneumonia. These include bacteria, viruses or parasites in addition to several other ‘atypical organisms’. It is not uncommon for a bacterial pneumonia to occur as a complication of a viral illness, such as influenza, measles, rubella or chicken pox.

Common symptoms of pneumonia are:

- Fever of 38.5°C or more with chills or shaking
- Cough, which often produces sputum from the airways. The colour of the phlegm may be green or rusty, occasionally with blood specks.
- Night sweats
- Shallow, rapid breathing and rapid heart rate
- Chest pain, which is worsened on inhalation or coughing. This may be only on one side and felt deep in the chest.
- Tiredness, body weakness (general malaise), confusion (particularly in the elderly)

These symptoms depend on age and other underlying health problems. In elderly people these symptoms may be much less obvious. Shortness of breath is not easy to spot but may be suspected when talking becomes interrupted and difficult.

How is pneumonia treated?

Antibiotics form the backbone of treatment of bacterial pneumonia. In most cases, especially in young, healthy patients, hospitalisation is not required if the patient is able to take the drugs and drink extra fluids.

Symptoms usually improve in two to three days. Rest and intake of enough fluid are important to aid recovery.

Elderly people generally take longer to recover then young healthy individuals.

Also read:

Pneumonia: what you should know
Antibiotic for pneumonia ups heart attack risk
Who gets pneumonia?


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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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