2017-12-28 / People

Surprising facts about pneumococcal pneumonia

Pneumonia can strike anywhere and anytime, the American Lung Association reminds us. A seri­ous, potentially life-threatening lung infection, pneumonia is pri­marily caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi that are transmitted from one person to another. The most common type of bacterial pneu­monia is pneumococcal pneumo­nia.

1. Pneumococcal pneu­monia can be serious. If you are 65 or older, your risk of being hospitalized after getting pneu­mococcal pneumonia is 13 times greater than for younger adults aged 18 - 49, and for those re­quiring hospitalization, they have an average hospital stay of six days. In severe cases, pneumo­coccal pneumonia can lead to death. Symptoms typically have an abrupt onset and may include coughing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, high fever, excessive sweating and shaking chills.

2. It doesn’t happen only dur­ing winter. Pneumococcal pneu­monia is not a cold or the flu; you can get it any time of the year. Although rates of pneumococcal pneumonia tend to increase in the fall and winter months, cold air does not cause pneumonia, including pneumococcal pneu­monia. Pneumococcal pneumo­nia can be spread by coughing or close contact with an infected person, no matter the season.

3. Even healthy adults are at in­creased risk. One of the most im­portant things to know is that for adults, risk increases with age as our immune system weakens and can’t respond as effectively to in­fection. Which means that other­wise healthy and active adults are at increased risk for pneumococ­cal pneumonia.

4. Chronic health conditions can also lead to increased risk. Other factors, like your lifestyle and certain chronic health con­ditions, can also increase your risk. Smoking, alcoholism and certain chronic medical condi­tions, such as diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or a suppressed immune system, increase your risk for pneumococcal pneumo­nia. In fact, for adults 65 and older living with COPD, the risk for contracting pneumococcal pneumonia is 7.7 times higher than their healthy counterparts, and those with asthma are at 5.9 times greater risk.

5. The good news: You may be able to reduce your personal risk. As a preventive healthcare mea­sure, vaccines work by teaching the body’s immune system to rec­ognize and defend against harm­ful viruses or bacteria before get­ting an infection, and reduce the chance of getting certain infec­tious diseases. But rates of vacci­nation among U.S. adults remain low, lagging well behind expert recommendations and federal goals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immuni­zation Practices recommends that all adults 65 years or older receive pneumococcal vaccination.

If you are 65 or older, talk to your doctor to see if you are up to date on your CDC-recommended adult vaccinations, and take a personal risk assessment at Lung.org/pneumococcal, developed by the American Lung Association in partnership with Pfizer.

This year, brush up on the signs and risk factors of pneumococcal pneumonia, as well as strategies for prevention, particularly as you age. (StatePoint)

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