Pneumococcal disease kills about 40,000 people in the U.S. yearly- roughly 25% more than auto accidents. Many potential victims don’t get the one shot that could protect them from a potentially deadly infection of the lungs, the blood or the covering of the brain, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) immunization officials say.
The culprit behind pneumococcal disease is Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterium that’s a common cause of pneumonia, bacteremia and meningitis. Antibiotics once were effective treatments, but pneumococcal disease has become more resistant — an open-and-shut argument for getting a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) shot if you’re in a recognized risk group.
The disease is spread from person to person, often by coughing or sneezing. Some of the most common effects include abrupt onset of fever, shaking, cough, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, chest pain, weakness, rigor and chills.
Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but DSHS says the following groups are among the most strongly advised to get a PPV shot.
Anyone over 65 or younger than 5. (Children younger than a year old have the highest rate of pneumococcal meningitis, with a high rate of fatality.)
People with a long-term health problem such as heart disease, lung disease (not including asthma), sickle-cell disease, diabetes, alcoholism, cirrhosis or cerebrospinal fluid leakage.
Anyone 2 or older who has a disease or condition that can lower the body’s resistance to infection. These include Hodgkin’s disease, lymphoma and leukemia, kidney failure, multiple myeloma, nephrotic syndrome, HIV infection or AIDS, damaged spleen (or no spleen) or a transplanted organ.
Older adults living in group settings such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The vaccine is not only safe and effective but also long lasting; one dose is all most people need. However, if you were vaccinated before 65 and it’s been at five years or more since your PPV shot, you should ask your doctor if you need a booster.
Others who may be candidates for a booster shot include those with functional or anatomic asplenia, transplant patients, patients with chronic kidney disease and those who are immunosuppressed or immunodeficient..
DSHS adds that, unlike influenza, Pneumococcal disease doesn’t have a season, so there’s no reason to delay in getting your vaccination. However, if you’re currently due for your flu vaccine, you might as well add PPV to your appointment — an option chosen by many.
To find out more about Pneumococcal disease vaccination, ask your doctor or nurse, contact your local health department, or call the DSHS Immunization Branch at 800-252-9152.