The actress and talk show host revealed she nearly died from pneumonia. Here’s how to protect yourself from this potentially deadly infection.
On Friday morning, talk show host and iconic entertainer Whoopi Goldberg, 63, made a return to “The View” to give an update on her health. The Oscar winner hadn’t been on to moderate the panel of the hit show since its February 6th episode.
In a video message recorded from her home, Goldberg revealed that she’s been recovering from a serious bout of pneumonia. She nearly died.
“I came very, very close to leaving the Earth. Good news, I didn’t. Thank you for all of your good wishes,” Goldberg said in the video.
“Ladies, I cannot wait to see y’all. This has been interesting and I’ll tell you about it when we’re all at the table,” Goldberg added. “To everybody, see you soon.”
Goldberg didn’t say when she would return to “The View.”
Pneumonia is an infection that can inflame the air sacs in either one or both lungs.
When someone is infected, the sacs fill up with fluid that can cause you to cough and have difficulty breathing. It can cause phlegm to fill your lungs and lead you to experience chills and fever.
Other symptoms include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and shortness of breath, according to Mayo Clinic.
For anyone who discounts the seriousness of pneumonia, take Goldberg as an example.
She revealed that the infection spread to both of her lungs and caused her to be septic, which is a possibly life-threatening condition that results from the body’s response to an infection, like pneumonia.
“Pneumonia is a pretty common disease, and a lot of times when we treat pneumonia in the hospital it’s not that severe,” Dr. John Mafi, MPH, a general internist at UCLA Health, told Healthline.
“What happens with pneumonia is [that] the body interacts with bacteria that sets off an inflammatory systemic response — the whole body gets swollen and inflamed, which is called sepsis. That’s the part that is oftentimes very deadly and that’s one of the complications we worry about,” he said.
Mafi added that older adults and young children need to be wary of pneumonia. He said the oldest and youngest patients are “the most susceptible to dying from pneumonia.”
“The good news is that it is oftentimes very treatable and reversible — it’s curable,” he said. “That being said it is getting harder to treat because we are seeing more and more people who are resistant to drugs, which is in part driven by overuse of antibiotics at large. That’s why we tell clinicians to be cautious about overusing antibiotics.”
Many people will encounter pneumonia in their lives.
About 1 million people seek hospitalized care due to pneumonia each year in the United States. In addition to this, about 50,000 people die from the condition each year nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Pneumonia happens after getting sick, usually for older adults [it happens] after getting a cold or a flu virus. You have to be vigilant about those basic steps of preventing a cold or the flu,” Mafi explained. “This involves washing your hands frequently [and] trying to limit your contact with other sick people.”
He added, “There are other big ones, like avoiding smoking — that’s huge — and then avoiding heavy drinking. These things increase your risk for pneumonia.”
He said that beyond these standard prevention methods, it’s key that people get vaccinated.
There are two vaccines that internists typically administer to adults who are 65 or older, he added.
The CDC recommends that older adults get a dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) followed by a dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) about one year later.
If you already received PPSV23 first, then you get PCV13 at least one year later. It isn’t recommended that people who got PCV13 at a young age get another dose of the vaccine later in life.
“These vaccines really work. The other vaccine is the flu vaccine. Last year, about 80,000 or so people died from the flu and a lot of the times, older adults get the flu, and then after the flu, their bodies are more susceptible to getting pneumonia,” Mafi added. “So, getting the flu vaccine reduces your risk of getting flu on average.”
He said this reduces your risk of dying from the flu and pneumonia, not just if you’re an older adult, but also if you have chronic conditions like the chronic lung diseases, asthma or emphysema.
He added that people with HIV as well as conditions like diabetes have weakened immune systems and should consider getting not just a flu vaccine but also the pneumonia vaccinations even if they’re younger than 65.
“When I see my patients who come in the office and say: ‘Should I get my flu vaccine, I’m young?’ I tell them that the data shows that even if you are unlikely to die from the flu, get the vaccine. [It not only] cuts your risk, but also protects older adults from getting the flu and it protects little kids and babies from getting sick,” Mafi said.
Essentially, protecting yourself from the flu can cause a health domino effect. Ultimately, you’re protecting not only yourself, but people who might be more vulnerable to the flu and pneumonia.
Are there other sure ways to avoid pneumonia?
“In general, I would encourage you to just do all the things you are supposed to do to stay healthy, like avoiding smoking and getting plenty of sleep,” Mafi stressed. “These things can help you maintain a strong immune system.”
Mafi also recommended maintaining a good diet and regular exercise.
“These things keep you, your lungs, and your heart healthy and you’ll be less susceptible if you are healthier. This way, you don’t develop chronic diseases,” he said.
“If you are unhealthy or overweight, you’re more susceptible to pneumonia. There are so many benefits to leading a healthy lifestyle that will indirectly help you prevent getting pneumonia and dying of it.”
“The View” talk show host Whoopi Goldberg, 63, announced on Friday that she’s been absent from the daytime program due to dealing with pneumonia.
The legendary entertainer said she was infected in both lungs and suffered from sepsis.
Pneumonia is serious — about 1 million people are hospitalized and 50,000 die each year in the United States.
Medical experts recommend that adults 65 years or older receive two pneumonia vaccinations. The disease can be deadly for older adults, young children, and people with compromised immune systems.
Want to avoid the condition? Get a flu vaccine — pneumonia can be a dangerous result of the flu — wash your hands, exercise, get enough sleep, and eat healthy.