illary Clinton recently experienced a bout with pneumonia – on a stage for all of the world to see. This incident has sparked a national conversation about the health of our politicians as well as the dangers of this common illness.
Each year, thousands of people die from pneumococcal disease (one of the causes of pneumonia), including 18,000 adults over the age of 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also indicates that pneumococcal disease results in thousands of hospital stays annually.
Pneumococcal disease can range from being very mild to being life-threatening, according to the Mayo Clinic. This lung infection causes the air sacs in one or both of our lungs to fill with mucus, in turn making us cough or experience breathing difficulties.
Some signs and symptoms of pneumococcal disease include sharp chest pains; shortness of breath or shallow breathing; elevated heart rate; loss of appetite; high fever; and fatigue, to name a few. An accompanying cough can last for up to ten weeks.
Other health conditions can result from being infected with pneumococcal disease:
- pneumonia, a lung inflammation
- bacteremia, an infection of the bloodstream
- meningitis, an infection that affects the spinal cord and brain lining
A variety of factors – more than 30 organisms, including fungi, a virus or bacteria – contribute to one’s risk of contracting pneumococcal disease, which is spread via bacteria from coughing and sneezing. The populations most susceptible to its dangers are children under the age of two and adults over the age of sixty-five.
The good news is that there are vaccines to protect ourselves against pneumococcal disease, and they can be given at any time during the year. But who should get vaccinated?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants as young as two months receive their first dose of the pneumococcal disease vaccine PCV13, followed by other doses through the age of 18 months. The AAP also recommends that certain children in high-risk groups receive follow-up pneumococcal disease vaccines as well as those who require catch-up immunization. Adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who have chronic health conditions or are immunocompromised should also be vaccinated.
Older adults, whose immune systems are weaker than younger adults’ and may also be immunocompromised, and the younger population who have chronic health issues like diabetes; kidney, lung or heart disease; alcoholism or cirrhosis; for example, are also advised to get vaccinated with the PPSV23 vaccine. This dose protects against 23 different types of pneumococcal disease. This vaccine is also recommended for all adults who have asthma or who smoke.
Regardless of whether you’re running for office or living life away from the spotlight, discuss the pneumococcal disease vaccine with your doctor and find out whether the vaccine is appropriate for you. And ask about the schedule of other available vaccines that can protect you from this potentially deadly disease and other very unpleasant ones.
Lauren B. Schiffman is Director of Communications for Century Health Systems, parent company of Natick Visiting Nurse Association and Distinguished Care Options. For more information, visit www.centuryhealth.org, or call 508-651-1786.
This article ran in the MetroWest Daily News on October 8, 2016