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What’s walking pneumonia? Elton John’s reason for postponing his next concert

Elton John forced to cut show short after losing voice, crowd applauds
Elton John forced to cut show short after losing voice, crowd applauds.

Singing sensation Elton John has postponed his next concert on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour less than one day after apologizing to fans for being forced to cut a set in New Zealand short due to walking pneumonia.

“I played and sang my heart out, until my voice could sing no more. I’m disappointed, deeply upset and sorry. I gave it all I had,” the British singer-songwriter wrote on his Instagram. “Thank-you so much for your extraordinary support and all the love you showed me during tonight’s performance. I am eternally grateful.”

The “Rocket Man” singer is still standing, but what is walking pneumonia and how serious is it?

 

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Different from regular pneumonia

Dr. Marie Budev, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said the term “walking” pneumonia is a nod to its milder symptoms.

The symptoms, which include chest pain, chills, a cough, headache and fever can emulate that of a cold, appearing more gradually than other types of pneumonia. So much so, Budev said, a person could have the illness and not even know it.

“The reason why it’s called walking pneumonia is because you can walk around with relatively less symptoms than you would with a full-blown bacterial pneumonia and still function and not think that you have pneumonia,” she said.

Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs that causes inflammation in the air sacs in your lungs. The air sacs fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult to breathe.

READ MORE: ‘Deeply upset’: Elton John apologizes to New Zealand fans for cutting concert short

But walking pneumonia, also known as atypical pneumonia, is less severe, caused by a bacteria called Mycoplasma pneumoniae. According to Budev, “it’s actually more common than we think.”

On their website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said atypical pneumonia is most frequent in kids, college students and geriatric patients.

“Elton is not young anymore,” said Budev. “I’m not surprised with his gruelling schedule, his hours and how much time and effort he puts into things that it could have caught something like this. And within his age group, I don’t think it’s unheard of.”

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That being said, she emphasized that there was most likely no cause for alarm. Budev said she highly doubted John’s walking pneumonia would permanently affect his singing abilities.

“I don’t think that we should be concerned that he will never come back to touring. But I think we’ll be talking about what sort of load he’ll be carrying each time he tours, especially during certain times of the year,” she said.

Elton John pledges $1 million towards bushfire relief during concert in Sydney
Elton John pledges $1 million towards bushfire relief during concert in Sydney

It’s very curable

The CDC said some patients can fight off walking pneumonia without medication, but most will get better with the right antibiotics. On their website, they said macrolide drugs, a class of antibiotic that includes erythromycin, roxithromycin, azithromycin and clarithromycin, are the preferred treatment for children and adults.

John will be okay, but Budev urged caution and carefulness during the flu season.

“We don’t realize how many times we’re touching an inanimate object that could have been actually infected. Someone could have been there before that had an infection and then we’re touching our faces or brushing back our hair or adjusting our contact lens or something like that and end up getting sick or infected,” she said.

Getting vaccinated is the key to preventing full-blown pneumonia, but since there is no vaccine to protect against walking pneumonia, regularly washing hands, and being cautious is the best line of defence, she said.

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“People need to understand that there are certain times of the year there are going to be more prevalent infections, this time of the year influenza is a big concern,” she said. “When you are around someone sick, be careful. Even if you’re not around someone sick, make sure you’re washing your hands continuously throughout the day.”