Five Surprising Facts about Pneumococcal Pneumonia
(November 9, 2017)
World Pneumonia Day—November 12—is a yearly reminder that pneumonia can strike anywhere and anytime, and is 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.
- 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 younger adults aged 18 to 49, and for those requiring hospitalization, an average hospital stay of six days. And in severe cases, pneumococcal pneumonia can lead to death. Symptoms typically come on quickly and may include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, high fever, excessive sweating and shaking chills, and coughing.
- It doesn't just spread during winter
Pneumococcal pneumonia is not a cold or the flu, you can get it at 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.
- 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 systems weaken and can't respond as effectively to infection. Otherwise healthy and active adults are still at increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia.
- Chronic health conditions can also lead to increased risk
Individuals with certain chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or a suppressed immune system, are especially at 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.
- You can reduce your risk of pneumococcal pneumonia
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults 65 years or older receive pneumococcal vaccination. As a preventive healthcare measure, vaccines work by teaching the body's immune system to recognize and defend against harmful viruses or bacteria before you get an infection, and reduce the chance of getting certain infectious diseases like pneumococcal pneumonia. But rates of vaccination among U.S. adults remain low—lagging well behind expert recommendations and federal goals.
"I tell my patients with already compromised lungs from chronic lung diseases like asthma and COPD that they may have difficultly handling respiratory infections," says Albert Rizzo, M.D., senior medical advisor to the American Lung Association. "In these cases the infections can result in hospitalizations, longer recovery time, and even death."
Talk to you doctor to see if you are up to date on your CDC-recommended adult vaccinations, and take our personal risk assessment, developed in partnership with Pfizer.