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.
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, it can lead to death. Symptoms typically have an abrupt onset and may include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, high fever, excessive sweating and shaking chills and coughing. Certain symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia including cough and fatigue and may last for weeks, or longer.
Older adults and those with weakened immune systems or certain chronic health conditions—like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—are especially at risk for infectious disease. 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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all adults 65 years or older receive pneumococcal vaccination. Yet every year, thousands of adults in the United States still suffer serious illness, are hospitalized or even die from diseases for which vaccines are available. Rates of vaccination among U.S. adults remain low—lagging well behind expert recommendations and federal goals.
"When recommending vaccination for pneumococcal disease, I tell my patients with already compromised lungs from smoking or 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."
The American Lung Association recommends adults talk to their doctor to see if they are up to date on their CDC-recommended adult vaccinations, and take a personal risk assessment at Lung.org/pneumococcal that has been developed in partnership with Pfizer Inc. For more information about pneumococcal pneumonia or any lung health questions, call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.