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The Easiest Way to Prevent Pneumonia

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By:

Laura Tenbus

October 13, 2020
Viruses are undoubtedly at the top of people’s minds lately. You may have heard about viral pneumonia and how its symptoms can be similar to the flu and COVID-19. Did you know there are pneumonias caused by bacteria as well? One of them is called pneumococcal pneumonia and it has many of the same symptoms as viral pneumonia – cough, fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain – but often causes more severe illness than its viral counterpart. The good news is there is a vaccine for this pneumonia!

You can be vaccinated for pneumococcal pneumonia almost any time you visit a healthcare office or hospital, so talk to your doctor about whether it is right for you. The vaccination can also help prevent other diseases caused by pneumococcal bacteria such as ear infection, sinus infection, meningitis (infection of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord), and bacteremia (bloodstream infection).

Anyone can receive the vaccine, but those who are most at risk for infection are:
  • Children under age 2
  • Adults age 65 and older
  • Those with chronic illnesses such as heart, lung, kidney, liver, diabetes mellitus, malignancy, or immune system diseases
  • Smokers age 19 and older
Most pneumococcal infections are mild; however, some can result in long-term problems, such as brain damage or hearing loss. Meningitis, bacteremia, and pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria can be fatal.

There are two different pneumococcal vaccines, PPSV23 and PCV13. Your healthcare provider will help decide whether each is needed which version is right for you. Talk to your doctor if you have had allergic reactions to vaccines in the past or if you are not feeling well. He or she may decide to postpone your vaccination to a future visit.

If you do not have a primary care provider, visit www.gbmc.org/mydoctor to find one who is right for you!
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