Don’t Let Pneumonia Get in Your Way!
We often hear about pneumonia, but it can sometimes be confusing as there are many different causes of pneumonia. There has been a lot in the media about pneumonia caused by COVID-19, and there is also pneumonia caused by the flu. These are both examples of viral pneumonia caused by viruses that infect the lungs. Pneumonia can also be caused by fungus and bacteria. Did you know that bacterial pneumonia is the most common cause of pneumonia in adults? Luckily there are vaccines for that.
What is Pneumococcal Pneumonia?
Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae. These bacteriaare the most common cause of community-acquired pneumonia worldwide. Streptococcus pneumoniaecan also cause bacteraemic pneumonia (infection in the lungs with bacteria in the bloodstream), sepsis (bacteria in the bloodstream), and meningitis (inflammation around the brain). Together these infections are referred to as invasive pneumococcal disease.
The bacteria are spread from person to person through respiratory droplets by:
It is possible to be carrying Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria without showing any symptoms. You can still spread the bacteria to others even if you don’t have symptoms.
Pneumonia causes an infection of the lungs. When a healthy person breathes the small sacs that make up the lungs called alveoli fill with air. When a person has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with fluid and pus which makes breathing painful and difficult and limits the amount of oxygen a person can breathe in. Symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia include:
- Chest pain
- Cough with pussy or blood-tinged sputum
- Shortness of breath
- Altered mental status in the elderly
Streptococcus pneumoniaecan also cause pneumococcal meningitis which is less common than pneumonia. Symptoms may include:
- Stiff neck
Are You at Risk?
There are certain factors and medical conditions that can increase a person’s risk of getting pneumococcal pneumonia. These include:
- Age ≥65 years
- Chronic lung disease (e.g. asthma and COPD)
- Chronic heart disease
- Some neurological conditions
- Chronic liver disease
- Impaired immune system
- Living in long term care facilities
- Travelling to developing countries
Prevent Pneumococcal Pneumonia!
If any of the above risk factors apply to you, consider getting immunized against pneumococcal pneumonia. There are 2 vaccines available to prevent pneumococcal disease, Prevnar13 and Pneumo23. Prevnar13 is provided to babies as part of the routine immunization schedule in BC. Adults may receive either Prevnar13 or Pneumo23, depending on age and risk factors. What’s the difference between the vaccines? Which one should you receive?
Prevnar13 vs Pneumo23
Prevnar13 is called a conjugate vaccine and provides protection against 13 strains of pneumococcal. Pneumo23 is called a polysaccharide vaccine and provides protection against 23 strains of pneumococcal. Research has shown that as a conjugate vaccine Prevnar13 is more effective than Pneumo23. Prevnar13 is the best way to protect against pneumococcal disease.
Pneumo23 and Prevnar13 do not provide protection against COVID-19.
Prevnar13 and Pneumo23 are recommended to individuals with certain high- risk medical conditions. For a complete list of vaccine recommendations see the links below.
Are You 50 Years of Age or Older?
If you are ≥50 years of age consider getting immunized against pneumococcal pneumonia, especially if you are a frequent traveller to areas in the world with lower vaccination rates where pneumonia strains could be more commonly circulating. Prevnar13 is available for purchase at TravelSafe Clinic for individuals who want protection against pneumococcal pneumonia.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that adults ≥65 years of age receive Prevnar13 followed by Pneumo23 at least 8 weeks later. If pneumo23 is given first then there should be a minimum of 1 year before receiving Prevnar13. Prevnar13 is available for purchase and Pneumo23 is provided free at your family doctor.
For more information about pneumococcal disease or to book your appointment for Prevnar13 call TravelSafe Clinic at 604-251-1975 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.