'Walking pneumonia’ forces Sir Elton John to cut show short – but what is the little-known condition?

Sir Elton John has been forced to cut a show short after developing “walking pneumonia”.

The “Rocket Man” hitmaker, 72, lost his voice during his farewell tour in Auckland.

A tearful Sir Elton was escorted offstage, while thousands of fans gave him a standing ovation.

In a post that has been liked more than 183,000 times, he told his 2.6 million Instagram followers: “I want to thank everyone who attended tonight’s gig in Auckland.

Sir Elton John at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on 16 February before he had to cut the show short. (Getty Images)

Read more: Doris Day died of pneumonia aged 97 – what are the symptoms?

“I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia earlier today, but I was determined to give you the best show humanly possible.

“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.

“Thank-you so much for your extraordinary support and all the love you showed me during tonight’s performance. I am eternally grateful. Love, Elton xx”

What is walking pneumonia?

Pneumonia comes about when the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs become inflamed and filled with fluid or pus as a result of an infection.

Usually caused by bacteria, a viral or fungal infection can also be to blame.

Symptoms range from mild to severe, commonly including difficulty breathing, cough, rapid heartbeat and fever.

In the most severe cases, pneumonia can be life-threatening.

Read more: Whoopi Goldberg on pneumonia battle: 'I came very, very close to' dying

“Walking pneumonia” is not an official term.

It is defined as symptoms not being so severe that patients require hospital treatment or bed rest, hence the term “walking”.

The American Lung Association stresses however that walking or “atypical pneumonia” can “still make you miserable with cough, fever, chest pain, mild chills, headache, etc”.

The organisation compares it to a “bad cold”, adding “taking care of yourself is the best road to recovery”.

Suspected patients should see a GP even if their symptoms are mild.

Pneumonia affects between 0.5% and 1% of adults every year in the UK. It is unclear how many have the “walking” form.

In the US, around 1 million adults are hospitalised with pneumonia every year and 50,000 die.

Read more: Coronavirus Covid-19 can cause life-threatening pneumonia

Otherwise healthy people tend to recover.

The elderly or those with a weak immune system may require ventilation and “supportive care” in hospital.

If pneumonia is caused by bacteria, antibiotics can target the infection.

Over-the-counter drugs like cough medication or decongestants may ease symptoms.

Cough syrup. (Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

When the condition is caused by a virus, antiviral drugs can help.

In many cases, however, symptom management and rest are all that are needed while the immune system naturally fights off the infection.

In severe cases, pneumonia can trigger pleurisy, when the thin lining between the lungs and ribcage becomes inflamed.

This can lead to respiratory failure, when insufficient oxygen passes from the lungs into the blood.

In rare cases, patients can suffer lung abscesses – pockets of pus inside or around the lung – or even sepsis.

Pneumonia is generally not passed from person to person.

Nevertheless, good hygiene can prevent infection.

This includes sneezing or coughing into tissues and washing hands regularly.

A healthy lifestyle can also help ward off the condition.