PNEUMOCOCCAL DISEASE CAN BE DEADLY

September 25, 2019

PNEUMOCOCCAL DISEASE CAN BE DEADLY

ThedaCare Provider Recommends Immunization at Age 65

APPLETON, Wis. – An estimated 900,000 Americans develop pneumococcal pneumonia each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Of that number, approximately 400,000 require hospitalization and as many as 25,000 of those individuals die from the infection.

“Pneumococcal pneumonia can be a very serious disease, especially for the elderly population,” said Kelli Heindel, MD, FAAFP, Medical Director of Primary Care for the ThedaCare Clinically Integrated Network. “That’s why we recommend that anyone 65 and older receive the two doses of the pneumococcal vaccine.”

The pneumococcal bacterium, Streptococcus pneumonia, is responsible for causing pneumococcal pneumonia, sepsis (a bacterial blood infection), ear infections, sinus infections and meningitis. It is one of the most common causes of pneumonia in older adults and the most severe in nature, the CDC reports.

Pneumococcal bacteria spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and close contact. People can carry the bacteria in their nose and throat without being sick, which can then spread to others.

Dr. Heindel said everyone 65 or older should talk to their doctor about getting the vaccine once they turn 65 and then the second dose of the pneumococcal vaccine one year later.

“Those immunizations will help protect older adults from the serious infections the pneumococcal bacteria can cause,” Dr. Heindel said. “The benefits so outweigh any potential minimal risks associated with an immunization.”

Dr. Heindel also advised that anyone between the ages of two and 64 who is in a high-risk category – diabetic, asthmatic, a smoker or some who are immuno-compromised – should talk with their doctor about receiving the immunization.

“People with those health concerns should be immunized,” she explained. “And they may also need a booster shot during their lifetime.”

Unlike the flu vaccine, which is only available in the fall, the pneumococcal vaccine is available throughout the year. 

“The flu vaccine changes every year because the viral strains causing the flu change over time,” Dr. Heindel explained. “The flu is a viral disease whereas pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria, and that bacteria does not change. That’s why people generally only need to receive the shots once.”  

She also noted that there are several different types of pneumonia, so someone who has had the pneumococcal vaccine may still develop pneumonia, though it will likely be less severe.

“One of the most common scenarios we see is an older person developing pneumococcal pneumonia following a bout with severe influenza,” she said. “If the person isn’t vaccinated, they run the risk of the pneumococcal bacteria becoming invasive and causing sepsis and other serious health conditions that sometimes can be fatal. These pneumococcal diseases can take off like wildfire, which is why it is so important to be immunized.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 7,000 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.