If Hillary Clinton brushed aside medical advice to rest after getting a diagnosis of mild pneumonia, she was risking developing a more serious case, medical experts said Monday.
Pneumonia — which leads to infiltration of fluid into the lungs, leaving a patient short of breath and often feverish but still able to function — can become serious or even fatal if it is not properly treated, doctors said.
The illness can be caused by viruses, bacteria or, less often, fungi or damage from toxic fumes. Without extensive testing, which is not normally needed, it is impossible to know what caused Mrs. Clinton’s case.
Mrs. Clinton’s doctor released a statement saying that the illness was diagnosed on Friday morning and that she was advised to “rest and modify her schedule.” Her team has released very little information about her condition: exactly how it was diagnosed; what antibiotics she is taking; the results of any blood work, chest X-ray or other diagnostic tests that may have been performed; or whether she has any underlying condition that made her vulnerable to the illness. On Monday, a campaign spokesman said that more medical information would be released this week and that those records would show she had “no other undisclosed condition.”
As a result, doctors asked about her case said they could only speculate.
“Hillary is sick, but she had two days of activities after she was diagnosed, so she’s not that sick,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, the chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He said he doubted she was infected with “the really serious bacteria that put you in a hospital.”
It is not uncommon for a doctor to diagnose pneumonia merely after listening to a patient’s chest through a stethoscope and hearing “rales,” which sound like tissue paper being crinkled, said Dr. William Schaffner, the chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School.
A doctor can also order a chest X-ray, a sputum sample and blood tests, “but she could be getting perfectly good medical care even if these things were not done,” Dr. Schaffner said.