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Pneumonia: It’s Not Just a Winter Illness

May 7, 2019

As this year’s flu season comes to an end, there may be a sigh of relief heard around your home or office; however, it is important to be mindful that there are still things out there that can make you sick and ruin this time of year – pneumonia being one of them. Getting a cold, the flu or pneumonia is generally associated with winter weather, but even though there may be an increase in these illnesses during those cold, wet months, there is still the potential of developing lung and other respiratory infections during the warmer spring and summer months.

The influenza virus is the most common cause of viral pneumonia, so for this reason, many people may believe flu season is also pneumonia season; however, pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common type of bacterial pneumonia, can occur any time of the year. It can strike anywhere and at any time and can be spread from person to person through a cough or close contact. To answer the question, “Is there a season for pneumonia?”, yes, every season is pneumonia season.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pneumonia is a leading cause of hospitalization in both children and adults and each year in the United States, about 1 million people seek care due to pneumonia. Unfortunately, about 50,000 of those people die from pneumonia every year, most of them adults over the age of 65.

Research from the American Lung Association shows that age alone increases the risk of pneumococcal pneumonia for the more than 47 million Americans over the age of 65. The risks are even higher for those that have a chronic lung disease, like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or asthma or are affected by other medical conditions such as a weakened immune system, heart disease, diabetes or health behaviors including smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.

Best ways to reduce the risk of pneumonia:

✓Get a flu shot. Preventing seasonal influenza by getting a flu shot every year is a good way to prevent pneumonia, since the flu is a common cause of pneumonia.
✓Get a pneumococcal vaccine. The CDC recommends two pneumococcal vaccines for all adults 65 years or older. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines:

    • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine – Prevnar13® (PVC13)
    • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine – Pneumovax23® (PPSV23)
      • Pneumococcal vaccination schedule at 65 years or older:
        • A dose of PCV13 first, then a dose of PPSV23 at least one year later.
        • If a dose of PPSV23 was already received, get a dose of PCV13 at least one year after receipt of the most recent PPSV23 dose.
        • If a dose of PCV13 was received at a younger age, the CDC does not recommend another dose.
        • The PCV13 and PPSV23 should not be given at the same time.

✓Wash your hands.
✓Don’t smoke.
✓Be aware of your general health.

 

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