Hillary Clinton has pneumonia. At least thats what her doctor tells, after she looked unsteady on her feet at a 9/11 rite on Sunday. Now, political spectators are calling for Clinton to release more detailed medical record, and many people–yes, those many people–are theorizing about how shes doing. Everyone: Shes probably going to be fine.
Pneumonia is an infection, specifically of the tiny sacs called alveoli–they look like bunches of grapes–that transfer oxygen from the air you inhale to the blood you … have. Someone who has the infection, viral or bacterial, coughs up droplets. You inhale them, and the microbes get into your lungs. If you’re not already immune to that particular pathogen, your alveoli start rendering fluid, and you start coughing, get a fever, and feel like crap. It’s common( 4 million cases a year ), and not that serious. And its four times as common in people over 65. Clinton is 68.
Physicians and researchers we talked to said Clinton likely has community-acquired pneumonia, the most common kind( as opposed to what you catch in hospitals or nursing home, which are more virulent ). You get it from being out in the world, tells Catherine Forest, a clinical professor at Stanford Medicine. Youre more likely to get it if youre not getting enough sleep. Or because of heat, or physical exertion, or stress. Or being on airplanes a lot, since that means being in closer proximity to people who might already be infected.
In other terms? Campaigning for president is a very good way to get pneumonia. Clintons in crowds all the time, says Michael Niederman, a lung doctor at Cornell Medicine. Im sure people coughed in her face before. And Clinton has a brutal schedule. Last week, she flew to Illinois and Ohio on Monday to meet with labor unions, stopped in Florida on Tuesday for a rally, then headed to New York on Wednesday, North Carolina on Thursday, and back to New York on Friday. Listen, you’d get sick, too.
If youre a Clinton supporter, the bummer about this diagnosis is that it plays into the conspiracy narratives her adversaries have been spinning about her overall health and, by extension, fitness to be president. Its especially a bummer because catching pneumonia has nothing to do with physical ability to presume the presidency. Its genuinely more of a political issue than a health issue, tells Art Reingold, an epidemiologist at UC Berkeley. Most people retrieve fully in a few weeks.
It is somewhat telling that physicians didnt send Clinton to the hospital, Forest tells. That means Clinton didnt have very low blood pressure, a high breathing rate, or an altered mental state. Standard course of therapy is antibiotics, at home. If she seemed so much better so quickly, they probably just treated her fever and gave her some liquids, Niederman says.
So: Its likely nothing to get worked up over. Everyone get sick on the campaign trail.