Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, including pneumonia. Pneumonia can be community-acquired, meaning that a person becomes ill with pneumonia outside of the hospital or a healthcare facility. Pneumonia can also be caused by a healthcare-associated infection (HCAI), which affect 1.7 million hospitalizations in the United States every year. An HCAI is an infection that is pickedup by someone while he or she is in the hospital for a different reason, such as surgery or treatment for an illness, such as cancer.

Sometimes called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection or injury. Sepsis kills and disables millions and requires early suspicion and rapid treatment for survival.

Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, and organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly) and/or amputations.

The most common source of infection among adults is the lung or lungs.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. The infection can be only in one lung, or it can be in both. There are several causes of pneumonia but the most common are:

Left untreated, pneumonia can be deadly. In the days before antibiotics, it’s estimated that about one-third of those who developed bacterial pneumonia died.


Some people can have pneumonia and not know it, but the most common signs and symptoms of pneumonia are:

  • Fever
  • Cough, with phlegm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Shaking chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain with breathing

Keep in mind, you do not have to have all these symptoms to have pneumonia.

Who Is at higher risk for developing pneumonia?

While anyone can develop pneumonia, some people are at higher risk than others. These include:

  • The elderly
  • The very young
  • People who recently had a cold or influenza
  • Smokers
  • Having a respiratory illness, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Exposure to certain inhaled toxins
  • Having recently had surgery
  • People in intensive care units


The information here is also available as a Sepsis Information Guide, which is a downloadable format for easier printing.

Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.