Helping Patients and Communities Have a Greater Awareness of Pneumonia

February 6, 2019

A growing number of patients understand the risks of flu and the steps they can take to protect themselves. But, there is less awareness around vulnerability to pneumonia.

Older adults, young children and people with chronic diseases, such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), face the highest risk, but anyone can get pneumonia. As a clinician, you play an important role in providing education about pneumonia risk, which can result from more than 30 different causes, including bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Your patients may not realize there are multiple types of pneumonia including:

  • Bacterial pneumonia, often called community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), is caused by various bacteria and usually occurs when the body is weakened in some way, allowing bacteria living in the body to multiply and work their way into the lungs. It affects patients of all ages and is commonly treated with antibiotics. However, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the increase of antibiotic-resistant strains of Streptococcus bacteria, which can lead to pneumococcal pneumonia is making it more challenging to treat pneumonia.
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia – referred to as “atypical” or walking pneumonia – is caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and generally causes a mild, widespread pneumonia that also affects all age groups.
  • Viral pneumonia, caused by various viruses, including the flu and the common cold, is responsible for about one-third of all pneumonia cases. Patients may be more likely to get bacterial pneumonia if they have viral pneumonia. each year, pneumonia kills about 50,000 U.S. patients and hospitalizes many more. Flu is a common cause of pneumonia and Medical News Today reports that flu and pneumonia are the 8th leading cause of death in the U.S. Getting an annual flu shot not only prevents the flu, but also reduces the risk of pneumonia. Vaccination may not be 100% effective, but they are the most effective strategy for preventing flu and pneumonia.

As trusted health advisors, you work to keep your patients healthy and promote the importance of prevention (including vaccinations).

Two vaccines are available to prevent pneumonia:

1. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13®)

  • Protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause most of the severe illness in children and adults
  • Recommended by the CDC for use in infants and young children and adults 65 years and older.

2. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax®)

  • Protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria
  • Recommended by the CDC for all adults 65 years and older, for those 2 years or older at increased risk for disease, and adults 19 through 64 years old who smoke cigarettes.

In addition to vaccination, encourage patients to adopt good health habits such as, washing hands and not smoking by raising awareness and vaccination rates, we can protect patients from the risks of pneumonia and prevent hospitalizations.

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