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Screaming Trees Bassist Van Conner Dead After Pneumonia—Here are the Symptoms

Here are signs of pneumonia that could be serious.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Screaming Trees bassist Van Conner has passed away after a protracted bout of ill health. He was 55.  "It was pneumonia that got him in the end," says his brother Gary Lee, who confirmed the death via a Facebook post. "He was one of the closest friends I ever had and I loved him immensely. I will miss him forever and ever and ever…" Lee posted about his brother on January 5, saying, "Van is hospitalized with a liver infection at the moment but he also been suffering from an array of health problems since late 2021. He has not been able to walk for about a year as the result of being in a coma after emergency stomach surgery just before Christmas of 2021. While he was recovering he got Covid which resulted in a blood clot in his lung. After recovering somewhat from Covid he still could not walk and his lungs were badly damaged."

So what exactly is pneumonia? "Medical dictionaries define it as an infectious lung disease in which fluid and inflammation in the lungs cause cough, fever, and shortness of breath," says Robert H. Shmerling, MD. "While this may sound clear enough, the term can actually cover a lot of ground. In addition, there are conditions other than pneumonia (such as bronchitis) that can cause similar symptoms. Pneumonia is generally diagnosed by a combination of symptoms, examination findings (especially listening to the chest with a stethoscope), and the results of a chest x-ray.

There are several different types of pneumonia, but the most common are bacterial and virall. "Those with fungal pneumonia tend to be frail or have weakened immune systems to start with and tend to be quite sick," says Dr. Shmerling. "For some, the illness lasts a few days or a week even without treatment; for others, it can take weeks to improve even with powerful antibiotics. There are even forms of pneumonia that are chronic — that is, they persist, despite treatment."

Pneumonia caused by a virus can turn into bacterial pneumonia, with streptococcus pneumoniae being the most common reason for bacterial pneumonia to develop. Here are five symptoms of pneumonia, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.




A lingering cough is one of the most common signs of pneumonia—with walking pneumonia, the cough is usually a dry cough, whereas coughing up discolored mucus is usually bacterial. "Bacterial pneumonia is the most common type of pneumonia," says Heather Alden, MD. "A bacterial infection often follows a viral infection that causes a cold or the flu. If you have bacterial pneumonia, your symptoms will be more serious and noticeable than non-bacterial pneumonia."

"A variety of microorganisms can cause pneumonia, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, or mycobacteria (the most famous member of which is tuberculosis)," says Dr. Shmerling. "People who have one type of pneumonia may experience a very different illness from someone else with a different type. For example, people with certain types of bacterial pneumonia may cough up a lot of thick, dark red sputum while those with viral pneumonia may not cough up anything at all."


Trouble Breathing and Chest Pain

Young woman feeling sick and having chest pain while coughing at home.

Difficulty breathing and chest pain, even at rest, may be a sign of pneumonia. "Pneumonia is a type of chest infection," says Asthma + Lung UK. "It affects the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs. When you have pneumonia, these air sacs get swollen and fill with fluid. This makes it harder for you to breathe."

"For more serious cases that require hospitalization, we're not only focused on clearing the infection, we're also focused on preventing or treating complications that can develop — including difficulty breathing, fluid buildup in the lungs, sepsis, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and lung abscesses," says Dr. Rayman Lee, pulmonologist at Houston Methodist. "Once the infection is cleared with treatment, your body still has to deal with removing all of the fluid, damage and debris left behind in your lungs. This can take a few weeks, resulting in a lingering cough and reduced lung capacity. During this time, you may find physical exertion more tiring than usual."


Fever and Sweating

Wife taking wife’s temperature

Both viral and bacterial pneumonia have symptoms of fever and sweating. "Bacterial pneumonia, which is the most common form, tends to be more serious than other types of pneumonia, with symptoms that require medical care," says the American Lung Association

"The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can develop gradually or suddenly. Fever may rise as high as a dangerous 105 degrees F, with profuse sweating and rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate. Lips and nailbeds may have a bluish color due to lack of oxygen in the blood. A patient's mental state may be confused or delirious." Viral pneumonia may also come with blue lips and high fever.



Annoyed brunette woman sitting in pajamas in bed and looking up

Fatigue is common both during pneumonia and after recovery. "After severe pneumonia, lung capacity is reduced and muscles may be weak from being so ill. Significant weight loss can further contribute to weakness and other health conditions may be aggravated due to the stress placed on the body during illness. These are all things your body will need time to recover from," says Dr. Lee. "A person with pneumonia isn't discharged from the hospital until his or her infection is under control and vitals are stable, of course, but there's still a lot of work his or her body needs to do while recovering at home."

Light exercise can help with recovery. "Physical activity can help your lungs regain strength — but go slow. Start with light exercise and stop if your cough worsens or you have trouble breathing. If a light workout feels okay, you can put a little more effort into your next workout." For severe pneumonia, the recovery is different. "The first thing to realize is that your body may be extremely weak after being discharged from the hospital, so you'll need to take extra care — leaning on your support network, if possible. Pneumonia can be incredibly taxing and there's no one-size-fits-all to recovery. Some people feel better in about six weeks, but it can take several months for others to feel better after severe pneumonia. Most importantly, be patient with your body."


Dizziness and Delirium

Sick young woman lying in the bed covered with blanket

Dizziness and confusion could be signs of pneumonia. "It's a sign of the body being sick, and it putting stress on their brains," says Sarina Sahetya, MD, pulmonologist and intensivist at Johns Hopkins Medicine. "If someone comes into the hospital and says their loved one is confused… that's a red flag for us to start looking for infection."

Sometimes the dizziness can lead to nausea and vomiting. "Immunity is not as robust in seniors, so it's important to get to the doctor and take care of the earliest symptoms quickly," says Dr. Ronald D. Adelman, co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "An older person is just as likely to experience delirium, loss of appetite, dizziness, falls, or lethargy when they get pneumonia as some of the physical symptoms. Older people with pneumonia (and other infections) are more susceptible to developing an acute confusional state, as well as rapid heartbeat and lethargy — all of which might not bring pneumonia to mind."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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